Designing solutions that are people-first and tech-forward

We use human-centered design research to develop digital solutions for the people we serve, with the people we serve. Through a design thinking approach, we co-create digital solutions that are at once innovative, impactful, and viable.

We begin with exploring the needs and desires of the people we’re designing for. We set aside our own assumptions and focus on understanding the perspectives, experiences, and needs of the people we are designing. Our experts use human-centered design strategies such as empathy mapping, journey mapping, and persona development to understand our audience members.

Next, we reframe the problem from the users’ perspective and identify potential opportunities for design. Our experts focus on iterative co-creation, rapid ideation, and prototyping.

We end with refining these ideas and prototypes into tangible solutions. Through a variety of user testing methods, we ensure that the products we deliver are usable and beneficial for the people who use them.


Communication Research

Project Highlight

Engaging New Moms Using Human-Centered Design Principles

To encourage new and expecting North Carolina parents to enroll in voluntary newborn screening, we used an interactive, formative research approach to develop our outreach and recruitment strategy. We began with a qualitative, journey mapping exercise to inform the development of draft outreach ads. We then quantitatively tested receptivity of the ad elements prior to widespread dissemination as part of the Early Check campaign.


Communications workshops include a “gallery walk” for participants to review and add comments to summaries of small group discussions.
Communications workshops include a “gallery walk” for participants to review and add comments to summaries of small group discus

Project Highlight

Communicating Science to the Public to Promote Informed Decisions

To support a project funded by the Food and Drug Administration, we developed a series of design workshops to explore how community members with diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds and low literacy access prescrip­tion drug safety informa­tion and how information about risks and benefits of prescrip­tion drugs could be modified to better meet their needs. The work­shops engaged participants through a series of activities, including a large group warm-up discussion, co-creation of storyboards in small groups to describe an encounter with a physician where the risks and benefits of a prescription drug were discussed, and a “gallery walk” for participants to review and add comments to summaries of small group discussions. 


Collaborating with health care providers to test communications materials
Collaborating with health care providers to test communications materials

Project Highlight

Meeting the Education and Emotional Support Needs of Families whose Infant was Diagnosed with SCID through Newborn Screening

We conducted in-depth interviews with seven parents of children with SCID identified through newborn screening. Participants were asked to complete a journey map to describe key timepoints related to SCID, starting at diagnosis through present day. Analysis of journey maps revealed five distinct stages that parents experience: (1) Diagnosis, (2) Pre-Treatment, (3) Treatment, (4) Post-Treatment, and (5) The New Normal. At each stage, parents described unique emotions, challenges, contextual factors that can make a difference in their experience, and information and resource needs. These findings were used to develop a website to support and educate new parents. The structure of the website was organized around the 5 stages so tailored information could be delivered at each stage.

Learn more about Project Highlight

Project Highlight

Addressing inequities in gene research with the All of Us project

The All of Us Research Program is designed to engage diverse participants across the U.S., particularly from communities that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. RTI has worked collaboratively with other consortium members to develop innovative, impactful experiences for participants. The program’s goal is to enroll 1,000,000 participants, and it has successfully signed on more than 360,000 people to date.

Data gathered from participants will help drive innovation in health care and help scientists understand how genes, health practices, and environmental exposures produce and impact health and illness. The program will gather genomic information, health information from electronic health records and additional participant-reported information gathered through surveys and wearable devices.

Project Highlight

Developing innovative augmented reality solutions for education and training of first responders

A multidisciplinary team is collaborating with White Cross Fire Department in White Cross, North Carolina to develop a solution that supports the education and training of first responders by leveraging augmented reality to provide support and alternatives to traditional classroom training. This work, funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is focused on a set of best practices for implementing technical innovations developed using first-responder-centered design.

The goal is to better understand and accommodate the unique pressures and structural factors that make the first responder environment both ripe for innovative technical solutions and potentially more challenging as well. Initial focus of the work has been in engaging fire department staff and volunteers in an assessment and observation of their existing training practices. RTI’s training and workforce development experts have been transforming this information into a set of requirements for an initial build of a HoloLens application designed to support training on pump panel operations. Next steps include usability testing of the HoloLens prototype with fire department instructors, trainees and students to evaluate the potential of this first responder augmented reality solution.

Let’s work together to improve the human condition and create social impact by leveraging digital technology