In week 9 of sustainability we dived even deeper into the topic of empathic design – everything from new designs to benefit elderly grocery shoppers to analyzing items that mean the most to us and even examining our daily lives to see how we could be benefited by personally designed products. First off, in the article we read about the design submitted in the 2002 DBA Inclusive Design Challenge by Kinneir Dufort, we are given a perfect example of empathic design. Dufort is partnering with The Appliance Studio to create a user-friendly device that assists elderly or disabled people with their shopping experience, allowing them to shop with the touch of a button rather than physically pulling items off the shelf. I found this article interesting and relatable to past studies that we’ve done in actually THREE other DHM classes where we’ve been asked to empathize with the baby boomer generation. In two of those three classes, we were even taken into the virtual reality lab and asked to put on a “suit” complete with gloves and eyewear to simulate the difficulties the aging populations are experiencing. We were then asked to design for this population after having empathized with them.
The product I chose to present as my most valued item was the purse I got from my team on my last day interning at Michael Kors. My personal style made a huge splash at work – people very high up in the company would comment on what I was wearing always, and it meant a lot to me. Sometimes the comments could have been taken as rude for it was no secret my style didn’t match the aesthetic of the company, but nonetheless, I stayed true to who I am. On my last day, one of my supervisors, a VP of the company, gave me a purse and said that him and my team had picked it out special to match my outfits. It is such a beautiful bag, and something I totally would have picked out for myself – a dropped style of course because it’s totally opposite of the Michael Kors brand identity. But it means so much to me that I was able to leave an impression about who I am based on what I wear, and that it stuck enough for them to notice and pick a bag out that matches. I’ll forever cherish this one-of-a-kind bag and the summer I spent at such an amazing company, and the summer where I learned to embrace who I am when pressures around are telling you differently. I relate this to empathic design because if one studied a person long enough, you could create a line of products that that person would love – apparel and accessories that perfectly capture who they are. But of course, each person in the universe can’t have their own designers designing for only them, so that’s why a person shops – to customize their look, their identity. So in a way, we’re our own empathic designers. Not so much in innovative products, although we can be, but more so in terms of fashion. Because every day what we choose to put on our bodies is a direct reflection of the message we want to show the world.
Market research can aid with empathic design, however it can sometimes be misleading. For example, a focus group of people being studied may not be the best representation of the entire population or they might not correctly portray their feelings on the topic. Market research is great validation that there is an issue at hand but doesn’t necessarily help with the design needed to solve it. After the market research is conducted if necessary, the five steps of the empathic design can be used to take the solution to new heights. When asked if all five stages are important, my answer would be absolutely yes. While simple observations may not seem as important as developing prototypes, you can’t have step 5 without starting somewhere.
In class on Thursday we conducted an interesting in-class activity. We recorded what we did for 48 hours and then were given a different student’s 48 hours to analyze and create a product that could benefit their life. I felt like it was difficult to create a product based simply off 48 hours because honestly, students were either being boring and only going to class and doing homework, or they were consumed by the weekend’s homecoming activities. Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise and as hard as it was for me to create a product, some students did really well with it and that’s what it’s all about. I loved the water bottle idea where it could sense what your body was lacking and add it to the water, such as iron or calcium. So creative!