Design Thinking – Empathy
Kyle Maxey posted on November 16, 2012 |

When it comes to integrating Design Thinking into Product Concept Design, Empathy is the crux of the matter. The goal of Design Thinking is framing Product Concept Development in terms of a ‘human-centered’ approach, and Empathy is how you relate the needs of people to your designs.

How to Build Empathy into your Next Product

While building Empathy into a product might seem like a complicated task it really only requires two key components, both of which are natural extensions of the way we do most things in life.  They are:

1. Observation – Watch how users act within relevant, real-life situations. Travel to places where the problem you are trying to solve exists and watch how organic solutions are created.  Don’t try to simulate circumstances; they’ll never be genuine and they might lead your designs astray by providing you with false conclusions.

2. Engagement – Have conversations with the users that you observe.  Come to the conversation with specific questions based on your observations, but don’t constrain your conversation to your own ideas. Let your product solve problems more completely by asking “Why” questions.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve met with your audience, heard their opinions and seen how they view a problem it’s time to start drawing conclusions.   Over the course of your observation and engagement period you’ll likely have gathered a wide range of opinions.  To crystallize your observations into a foundation for your designs, look for patterns that emerged from your conversations with users.

Was there a single problem that all users expressed about previous product solutions? Were the problems multiple? Is a complete rethinking of the product necessary?

Your users will be the best bellwethers for the direction that your design solution will go. Make a framework from their opinions, draw upon them to make conclusions and prepare those conclusions for the next phase of the Design Thinking method, Collaboration.

In the video below Vince Penman and Allison Toepperwein give and overview of how Empathy and Collaboration are used in Design Thinking.


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