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Heather Fleming

DP23657: Applying Human Centered Design to Sticky Engineering Challenges

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Key Learning

Key Learning

  • Use a human centered design approach to problem solve
  • Understand how to put the end user at the center of the design process
  • Identify the needs of the end user in new, creative ways
  • Build a sense of empathy for the people you're designing for



How can we think about the needs of the people we’re designing for in a way that helps us avoid engineering pitfalls? What makes human-centered design an effective strategy versus an over-hyped trend? Where has a human-centered approach worked well, and where has it failed? A panel of product design experts will address these questions and more to uncover new ways to tackle difficult engineering challenges with the end-user in mind.

Target Audience

Target Audience

Product designers, mechanical engineers, industrial designers and any others interested in human centered design.



Heather Fleming

Heather Fleming is the CEO of Catapult Design, a US-based product and service design firm working in the global development sector. Catapult partners with organizations to develop sustainable solutions that address technology and social issues such as: rural electrification, water purification and transport, food security, and improved health.

Before starting Catapult, Heather was a product design consultant in Silicon Valley, designing products for a diverse range of corporate clients, and an Adjunct Lecturer at Stanford University and California Academy of the Arts. In 2005, she co-founded and led a volunteer team of designers and engineers focused on social impact design work through the San Francisco professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). The team still exists today and engages hundreds of volunteers in engineering and design challenges throughout the developing world.

Heather was named a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for her work with EWB and Catapult Design. She is also a Board member for the Navajo Chamber of Commerce and serves on ASME’s Engineering and Global Development committee, chairing an initiative to create standardized evaluation metrics and design guidelines for products distributed in impoverished communities.

Taiei Harimoto

Taiei is a product design engineer, leading Proximity Designs' design and development of low-cost high-impact products for smallholder Myanmar farmers. Trained at Stanford's, Taiei is passionate about applying design while embedded in the local context of end users. His all-Myanmar team has brought multiple income-generating products to market over the last 8 years. The team is engaged in the complete product design process, beginning with empathy building and needfinding, product design and development, co-design with customers, all the way to design for manufacturability. Most recently Taiei has been working on Proximity’s digital initiatives, designing new services and communication channels to meet the changing needs of Myanmar farmers.

Jason Munster

Jason (Jay) Munster is the founder of Blue Skies, a company with a mission to reduce asthma and deaths from air pollution worldwide. Blue Skies products in developed countries aim to be the first devices to prevent asthma, rather than manage asthma, while the products in developing countries aim to prevent infant deaths from indoor air pollution.

An environmental scientist by training, Jay has a BS on Earth and Planetary Sciences, an MS in Atmospheric Chemistry, and a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering. Over the past two years, Jay transitioned from a designer and builder of scientific instruments to a designer of consumer products.

Oliver Risse

Oliver is a cleantech fanatic and worked the last 15 years in the field of clean energy investments, smart city technologies, electric mobility and sustainable design. He loves the high pace early stage venture space to accelerate businesses with a positive impact. Since almost 10 years Oliver lives in Singapore and travels between and Asia and Europe. Floatility is his latest ventures with offices inSingapore and Hamburg and the simple aim to solve the last mile transportation problem.



  • 2016
  • DP23657
  • AU Las Vegas


  • General Manufacturing and Product Design
  • Consumer Products


  • Learning and Development Practice
  • Product Design