Empathy in Design Thinking

    In the previous article, you can read about design thinking in general, and in this article I would like to talk a little about empathy. Empathy, in other words, an understanding of other people, is necessary for good design.

    The basis of empathy is observation. Moreover, observing not only the design object and the people interacting with it, but also the context of such interaction!

    Surveillance should go beyond the scope of the product, service or process being developed. Since the user experience begins much earlier. Any program, website, company, process in an organization solves problems that arose at earlier stages. So the online store solves the problem of buying goods, the need for which arose outside the Internet. And for a full understanding of the situation, it is necessary to observe not only the buying process, but also how the need arises for it and what happens after.

    A proper understanding of the context, processes and people interacting with the design object is the main cornerstone task, which provides 90% of the correct design, the right thoughts, focus, questions and answers to them. Most successful products and services are not built on a great idea, but on a “right” problem!

    For example, the patient in the hospital most of all looks at the ceiling, but for some reason the walls are painted. Since the opinion of investors and relatives is based on the appearance of the walls, not the ceiling! In this case, we have an example of a poor understanding of the patient's needs regarding the interior of the wards. The focus is not on the end user, but on people who evaluate the hospital and give it money, and this is clearly reflected in the design.

    Understanding the very design of thinking

    To perceive the design of thinking as an ideal and final algorithm or process is a mistake. The division into steps is very arbitrary and is given for initial understanding, the formation of a more productive way of thinking. The steps listed in the previous article can iteratively repeat and mix. If this is prohibited, it will be difficult to get real innovation, since creativity cannot be driven into a fixed framework, otherwise it will simply cease to be so and will turn into a mediocre craft.

    Design thinking is very useful to combine with the gaming atmosphere of design development. For example, to develop positioning and a marketing strategy, you can ask buyers to make a box for a product that, in their opinion, will facilitate sales. Such an exercise will help to identify what is valued by consumers in the product: these qualities will be on their boxes.

    Design thinking is not psychology, not the work of a genius - it is the result of the work of a group of people! Even if you work on your own, at the time of observation, those you are watching are included in the group. After observation, it is necessary to clarify the causes of certain actions that you noticed. In no case should you be asked to describe the ideal product or service, listen not to words, but to actions! Guiding questions are needed in order to see a context that is hidden from your eyes and is outside the field of view.

    Design thinking is not magic and not an “how” answer, it is an “what” answer. It allows the design to find direction, a more focused goal.

    Record Observations

    In the course of monitoring the actions of people, it is necessary to find and record the answers to the following questions:
    • What are the needs and desires at the time of action? What is the goal at this very moment?
    • What is the context of the action? Time, place, tools, resources, opportunities?
    • Try to lose the situation with the changed parameters. How will the result change if you shorten or increase the time? Should I change the place and tools? What conditions will make the situation ideal: the goal is fulfilled, the desires and needs are satisfied and no resources and tools are needed?
    • Are there hidden opportunities and options at the time of the action?

    The ability to see the context of a design object can be very effectively used. For example, one entrepreneur made a catalog of their products in a smaller format than all other catalogs. Due to this, all sellers of newspapers and magazines placed this catalog on top of the pile of the rest of the periodicals (on the principle of the pyramid). This, in turn, increased the entrepreneur’s sales, as his catalog was always in front of buyers in every stall and on every tray.

    A designer is a witness

    A designer is a witness to what happens when using a design object. He should notice the “obvious little things” that usually no one thinks about and that they don’t realize. Therefore, during scenario testing of prototypes, mindfulness, observation, and not “thinking out”, empathy, and not psychology are necessary!

    You cannot ask people directly what they want. It is necessary to observe the actions and ask about the reasons for the actions. And during the survey, listen not to words, but to reaction to questions, to notice hidden desires and needs. Not everything that is desired, people can realize and express in words.

    Man always has two motives. One real and second that sounds beautiful.
    Henry Ford

    During observation, try to also note the emotional coloring of the actions that you notice. It is emotions that should prioritize, the power of necessity and the degree of influence on a person of one or another design characteristic. In the next stages, this will allow you to pay attention to the most important in design, what will make a person the most happy.

    Good design often:
    • It makes the user feel like an accomplice in something important and greater than himself. For example, products that help protect the environment.
    • It makes it easier for a person to bear his obligations to other people.
    • Improves productivity.
    • Makes a person happy. However, not everything that makes a person happy improves his life (for example, cigarettes).
    • Makes a person’s life better (good for health, family, relationships with others, and so on).
    • It increases the value of a product or service in the eyes of the consumer (for example, a titanium phone case).

    To invent something new, it is not necessary to invent it. You can just look at the old with new eyes. There are many unsolved problems that everyone is used to and do not notice them. Nobody will tell them to you, but they can be seen by observing the actions of people and finding their true motives.

    Design controls feelings, therefore, to create it, it is necessary to determine: what a person does, what he says about it, what he thinks and what he really feels. For quality observation, you can do the following, in order of preference:
    • Directly observe and communicate with those who will use the design result.
    • Analyze reviews, environments, and ways people use the design object.
    • Get your experience identical to the user experience, for example, in role-playing scenarios or in a real live environment (become a user for some time).

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