Students in Human-Centered Design Class Help Public Radio Station Expand Its Audience

Four students from HCD class sit on a sofa at The Hive

Students enrolled in a class titled Introduction to Human-Centered Design had an opportunity last fall not only to share their group projects with their classmates, but with staff from KPCC, Southern California’s largest public radio station, as well.

For five weeks, each team focused on concrete ways to help the station increase its reach and service to its audience. Teams applied the methods of human-centered design (HCD) to generate and test creative ideas that the station could put into action. They presented them to station staff on December 1.

English major Alex Coleman ’24 describes her team growing close to each other as they worked through the ups and downs of the design process. “Having this deliverable to give to KPCC after five weeks of intense work was very satisfying,” she says. She enjoyed “being able to present the idea and see the reaction—see what they liked and what stuck.”

KPCC, on its website, describes its mission as being “a public forum that engages its audiences in an ongoing dialogue and exploration of issues, events, and cultures in the region and in the world. We seek to provide greater understanding and new perspectives to the people of these communities and their leaders.” Now, Kristen Muller, KPCC’s chief content officer, feels that to achieve its mission, the station needs to understand the deeper news and information needs of its diverse audience.

Station personnel learned about the Human-Centered Design class that is offered at the Claremont Colleges by faculty at The Hive— more formally known as the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity. They believed that a partnership with the students might yield fresh ideas as it looked for ways to increase its relevance to a new generation of listeners.

After the presentations, they were not disappointed. “We just had a group of very bright young folks who are going to be transitioning from school into the workforce very clearly tell us what their needs are,” said Jennifer Baughman, KPCC’s traffic director. “We’re very impressed with the students’ interviewing skills, their insights, their storytelling, creativity—really, really quite impressed,” added Muller. “We are planning to test at least one of the concepts with actual LAist/KPCC readers.”

Human-centered design is a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding real human and societal problems and designing creative, meaningful solutions. Each year, faculty at The Hive offer an introductory and an advanced class on applying human-centered design principles to real-world problems. Both courses are highly interactive and creative. The HCD method involves empathy and design research, problem/need definition, ideation and prototyping, and testing and iteration.

Students in the fall semester class came from Pomona as well as the other undergraduate Claremont Colleges. Serena Lin ’25 says that her group “ended up changing our idea 180 degrees midway—but it just goes to show how dynamic the design process is.”

Coleman adds that “it really framed how I learn in a different way, genuinely collaborating.” She expects that it will impact her study and eventual career.

Lin echoes that sentiment. “This class has advanced my lifelong goal of using creative problem solving to improve the quality of life and bring joy to overlooked groups,” she says. “I have applied the frameworks from HCD to my other endeavors, such as a multiyear intergenerational initiative to use art and film to connect youth and elderly that I started in 2018.”

The Hive fosters creativity of all types, not just artistic, and encourages collaboration. It describes itself as place where students can “experiment, play, get lost, and build their creative capacity.”

“The students here are amazing,” says Fred Leichter, executive director of The Hive. “We get to put them together with great projects and a great method, and then you see what amazing things they are capable of doing in a short period of time.”