Human-centered design emphasizes the notion that we need to fully and wholly understand the people for whom we are designing.
This is accomplished through the first step of design thinking: EMPATHY.
Empathy includes collecting information from and about the people you are designing for through interviews and observation, among other methods.
Developing empathy for your users means that you develop an understanding of their needs, goals, motivations, experiences, and perspectives.
Through a deep understanding of your user, you are also checking assumptions that you might have about the users and the problem that you are working to solve. This is also where we find our INSPIRATION.
Developing empathy is key to the generation of new insights and lines of inquiry around the problem. Empathy allows a designer to clearly DEFINE the problem at hand. Once the problem is clearly defined, we can begin to IDEATE and develop a set of wide possible solutions.
With several possible solutions, now, one needs to focus on one possible solution and develop a PROTOTYPE. Prototyping helps the designer think more fully about the details of a possible solution. Low fidelity prototypes can then be TESTED on potential users to gain further insights and learning about this possible solution.
Design thinking is an ongoing iterative cycle using rigorous methods of research to understand your users and test your prototypes for deep learning and understanding.