Empathic Design

Empathic Design

This approach to problem solving begins with peoples’ thoughts and feelings.

Your design team will work to develop empathy and connect emotionally with the people you are designing for, in order to understand the problems and realities of their lives. Ideally, your team will do research across many different groups of people and “walk in their shoes’’ before trying this method.

Time:
Days - Weeks
Difficulty:
Moderate
Materials:
  • Pen
  • Camera
  • Notepad
Participants:
  • interviewer
  • interviewee
  • community members
The HCD Toolkit
and all HCD methods are licensed under: Creative Commons License
Instructions for this Method
  1. Encourage the team to connect both rationally and emotionally with people you are designing for. Try out their experience first hand. Feel, see, and hear as they would while going about this activity and day.

  2. Remember your task is to understand and empathize with people, not to judge them, their behaviors or decisions. Cultural differences are important to recognize.

  3. Make sure the team has spoken with enough people in the HEAR phase to develop empathy. If not, go back to the field and conduct more research.

Tips
  • If you plan on employing empathic design methods, it is important to do research across many different groups of people. 
  • Consider using empathic design when: the design team has the skills required to develop solutions, the solutions you are seeking are “new to the world” or community politics make it difficult to select a few individuals to work with.
  • Include men and women in the design team to ensure a balance of perspectives.
  • When possible, recruit members of the community with the skills needed to be members of the design team.
  • While the design team generates solutions, you should always have the people you are designing for in mind.

Discuss this Method