Friday, May 30, 2014

Empathy is a Fundamental Component of Design

Empathy is the core foundation in Design Thinking, and Design Thinking is a process of empathy building.

We live in a fast-paced digital environment of rapid technology development and utility obsolescence; it is also the era of customer centricity. As the saying’s going: Empathy is a fundamental component of the design. How have you developed an empathic relationship and spirit among your customer experience design team members? How shall you redesign the human-centered design to be even more empathic? What have been your needs, problems, and challenges with empathy in design? And ultimately, how do you drive design thinking toward creating more empathy in the world?

Design thinking vs. empathic design: Design thinking is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. Empathic design is a user-centered design approach that pays attention to the user's feelings toward a product. Design Thinking (DT) is fundamentally an inclusive approach where the intent is to go beyond just need and utility. The thinking that is added to the conventional design is almost always empathic because DT thinks of other elements such as, what may be affected in future, influence behavior and not obviously visible. While DT is considered to be a subjective delivery, a very tangible objective result of an ideal DT delivery is to enhance the "sustainability of the designed product or process".

Design thinking is about how to change and influence the people, culture and humans.  A design like art transforms emotions, feelings, cultures. Sometimes it is boring, sometimes it is impressive and wakes emotions up. The challenge is to create a product or service that does not need to be upgraded at a high cost so often. This should be considered to be one of the outcomes of a successful DT delivery because it designs by inclusion which implies empathy.

Empathy is the core foundation in Design Thinking; and Design Thinking is a process of empathy buildingUnderstanding needs does not equal to empathy. "Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process. The Empathize mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about the world, and what is meaningful to them. " - An Introduction to Design Thinking - Process Guide

Digital is the age of empathy. Empathy is the very foundation of design thinking and the core ingredient in digital leadership. The human-centered design begins from deep empathy and in-depth understanding of needs and motivations of people from different perspectives and applying design to increase the level of empathy in a person, organizations, nations, and the world in general.


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