Empathic Design

This past week, we continued to focus on Empathic Design. I began by reading the specific passage for the merchandising students. It was about the struggles of elders when grocery shopping and about the changes that are made to adapt to the older shopper. I found this reading interesting because this seems to be a common problem we must solve within the merchandising courses. I related this reading back to some of my other classes where we discussed what difficulties elderly people may have when shopping, whether at a retail store or a grocery store.

In class, we also discussed each students oldest and/or most valuable item they have. For me, this item was a blanket I’ve had since I was born. This blanket was also my mothers since she was born, so it is pretty old. It is now in scraps and pretty much completely torn up. Even though it isn’t very valuable, I still treasure this item because it was my comfort blanket growing up and it is special to me because it was also my mothers. It was interesting to hear about all the different things each student held close to their heart. I think it would be cool to make a store where soon-to-be mothers could design a special blanket for their future child, like the one I have. This would be a fun way to make a special, yet useful item for their children to treasure while growing up.

This week, we also learned more about market research, empathic design, and the five steps within the empathic design process: observation, data capturing, reflection/analysis, solution brainstorming, and prototype development of potential solutions. All five of these steps seem important when designing through empathy. Observation and capturing data are obviously important because without observing people and their behaviors, we would have no way of knowing what they need in a design. Reflection is also important because as designers, we must reflect on our observations in order to recognize the problems that arise with our consumers. Brainstorming is important in order to start creating a flow of ideas and potential solutions. Lastly, we must obviously develop prototypes of our potential solutions in order to find out if they will work properly as the final solution.

We also discussed the difference between market research and the research behind empathic design. In market research, we survey a lot of people, but receive less insight on our target consumer, while in empathic design, we may speak with less people, but receive greater insights. Market research is also better suited for validation, while empathic design research is better for innovation.

On Thursday, we completed the Design probes package activity, where we had to observe another students full 48 hours and design a specific product or store for them based on our findings. Our group created a home goods boutique for our design probes package. The boutique sold baking goods, candles, flowers, and other cute gift items. The store had a lounge area where coffee was sold. Our store was also pet-friendly. The girl we observed enjoyed candles, flowers, baking, her dogs, and seemed like she was a homebody through her package. We thought our store would be a great place for her to unwind and feel comfortable while also shopping for her favorite things. I really enjoyed this activity because it seemed more interactive and fun, rather than our typical problem solving activities.

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