Empathic Design

This past week our class covered the meaning behind empathic design and the importance of it. Battarbee’s definition of empathic design in the article “A framework for empathy in design” was one of my favorite definitions of the several given throughout the article and was worded as followed, “when empathizing you do not judge, you ‘relate to [the user] and understand the situations and why certain experiences are meaningful to these people’ a relation that involves an emotional connection.”

After having read two different articles on this topic, I learned how material possessions are no longer made to last. I can see how this is true because you can see tank tops sold in stores for under five dollars and the quality reflects the low price because you can really only get in a few wears before it loses its original look and feel.

Unsustainable products are not the only issue, making products that are not emotionally connected to the consumer also plays a part in why we throw away so much stuff. When there are emotions involved with an object, this makes for something we take more care of. An object you care about is something you won’t throw away, or something you will try to repair before it is just considered waste. In the Article by Niinimaki and Koskien, Schifferstein and Zwarktkruis-Pelgrim expand on the emotions that are felt when dealing with object, “…there are seven determinants of product attachments can be identified: enjoyment; memories to persons, places, and events; support of self-identity; life vision; utility; reliability; and market value.” In my material culture class we have also talked about hoarders and how their emotions are tied to the things they keep. While there are people being sustainable, some are taken to the extreme, but you can see that memories and events can cause a person to keep their objects for a longer period of time rather than a quick short term use. In class we got into groups and talked about the oldest piece of clothing or item we owned and went through each of the seven determinants. I talked about my grandpa’s zarape (Mexican blanket) and how it has sentimental value to me because of my grandpa and how its design is timeless and classical. This is not only just a memory of my grandfather, but it is also a part of my culture.

After we reviewed both articles for the week, we were also given a project to put ourselves in the shoes of the designer. We worked on a design probe packet and went through our day using tools such as a camera, and short diary entries to keep track of what went on so that the designer could try to create a product for a random person. I had a lot of fun doing this project because it made me realize where my values are and also showed me that it is possible to get people to open up about themselves through different tools. I noticed I was able to open up more by doing this design probe because I wrote about things I wouldn’t normally talk about. Although, one classmate did raise a great point. The design probe activity shows a great way to use empathic design but does not tell the whole story, therefore we are making many assumptions and not getting the full story behind the actions and moods. An interview following this activity would further our knowledge and make it so much easier to satisfy the consumer’s every need, therefore, making a better and more sustainable product.




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