Importance of Empathy in Design – Blog 7

I really enjoyed this week’s discussion and reading on empathic design. I think empathy is essential in life and that some are better at it than others, especially when it comes to applying it to design. For designers, it is crucial that products are made to meet the consumer’s needs, and the best way to do this is through empathic design. The article A Framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life, made a really good point saying that “Empathetic understanding goes beyond knowledge: when empathizing you do not judge, you relate to the user and understand the situations and why certain experiences are meaningful to these people”. It made me realize that in order for a designer to really create something that meets a consumer’s needs, they must take the time to ‘step into the user’s shoes’ and take the perspective of the user. We did two activities in class where we analyzed the affective and cognitive component of empathy: one, where we took the point of view of a baby eating cake and two, wearing a police duty belt. This was a great exercise that helped me understand that designers are suppose to observe and feel the user’s emotional state (affective) to gain an understanding of the user (cognitive). We also watched a TED Talk, “Design is in the Details”, where the speaker talked about having a beginner’s mind/starting from a clean slate. He gave an example of a storage unit built for children where the designer put himself in the child’s shoes and literally hung out under a desk. By taking the viewpoint of a child, he was inspired to create a totally different way of storing item that was built into/underneath tables. It made me realize that designers can often times get trapped thinking about design in a certain way or from a certain point of view.

I also thought the article I love this Dress, It Makes Me Feel Beautiful! Empathic Knowledge in Sustainable Design was very insightful. It gave me a different perspective on sustainable design by enhancing long-term product relationships. We have talked so much about improving our industry’s sustainability through the materials and processes we use, but this article suggests that we should be focusing on consumption behavior. Like many, I am guilty of letting cheap prices tempt me into fast and unsustainable consumption. This only adds to the amount of textiles being thrown into landfills every year. Like the article says, “emotions play a strong role in consumption.” As future designers, we need to start thinking about ways to incorporate some special meaning and deeper emotional values and needs to the products we create, so consumers become more attached and less likely to throw them away.

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