The topic of empathetic design is very interesting to me because I have an interest in both market research and psychology and you really need both fields as well as design in order to use it successfully. The Framework for Empathy Design discussed the 4 phases of empathy which are: discovery, immersion, connection, and detachment. I think that these are important to consider when designing sustainably because what may work for one person/culture may not work for another. Therefore the designer needs to try and make the design functional for the maximum amount of people possible so a large number of people can utilize it.
Empathetic design also correlates with emotional attachment, which can lead to sustainability because people are less likely to put something in a landfill that they are attached to. But, as my group discussed, emotional attachment to items is not always a good thing. Many things that have an emotional attachment can either no longer be used or the person doesn’t want to use it so it won’t get ruined. Therefore, the item sits in a closet and collects dust when it could be recycled or donated and used by someone else.
Although highlighting a products emotional attachment may be difficult it is not impossible. One way we discussed in class was to market products in a way that highlights their timelessness and quality so people will want to keep it forever. The product may be expensive, but the fact that it is such great quality that it could be an heirloom, could outweigh that. When we were all discussing our items in class many came with a story. So, another way designers/markers could add an attachment to a product is by providing a story with the item, to make both the item and the seller more relatable. The idea of co-design was mentioned in our readings and I feel as though it is the only true way to give someone an immediate emotional attachment. Otherwise, the consumer would have to choose between either aesthetic or emotional properties when making a purchase. However, co-design would be very costly for most people because custom made things are typically expensive. I think one solution to that would be for more brands to offer online customization, which would make the concept of co-design more accessible to the average person. I think if a consumer is invested in an item, either because they took the time to customize it or because they made it meaningful, then they would be less likely to discard it. Additionally, many things that are purchased are based on trends but if it’s something customized or co-designed than its something personal and therefore their tastes would less likely change. So, developing an emotional attachment to items can have its drawbacks but I believe it does more good than harm. Therefore, we in the fashion industry need to invent new ways of creating value and try to challenge our “throw away society”.