Empathy

Your constantly-updated definition of Empathy and collection of topical content and literature

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What is Empathy?

Design Thinking cannot begin without a deeper understanding of the people you are designing for. In order to gain those insights, it is important for you as a design thinker to empathize with the people you’re designing for so that you can understand their needs, thoughts, emotions and motivations. The good news is that you have a wide range of methods at your command for learning more about people. The even better news is this: with enough mindfulness and experience, anyone can become a master at empathizing with people.

"Engaging with people directly reveals a tremendous amount about the way they think and the values they hold. Sometimes these thoughts and values are not obvious to the people who hold them. A deep engagement can surprise both the designer and the designee by the unanticipated insights that are different from what they actually do - are strong indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the way the world is."

– d. School Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013

Developing Empathy towards People

The first stage (or mode) of the Design Thinking process involves developing a sense of empathy towards the people you are designing for, to gain insights into what they need, what they want, how they behave, feel, and think, and why they demonstrate such behaviors, feelings, and thoughts when interacting with products in a real-world setting.

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The five stages of Design Thinking are not always sequential — they do not have to follow any specific order, and you will find they can often occur in parallel and you can repeat them iteratively. As such, the stages should be understood as different modes that contribute to a project, rather than sequential steps. However, most projects begin with an “Empathizing” phase.

To gain empathy towards people, we as design thinkers often observe them in their natural environment passively or engage with them in interviews. Also, as design thinkers, we should try to imagine ourselves in these users’ environment, or stepping into their shoes as the saying goes, in order to gain a deeper understanding of their situations. In the following sections, we will outline some methods from d.school Bootcamp Bootleg that will allow you to gain empathy towards your users.

Assuming a Beginner’s Mindset

Copyright holder: the Author. Copyright terms and license: CC0

The mode dial of a Canon EOS Digital SLR camera. How would a beginner photographer know what to choose? To help beginners, fully automatic modes are represented with icons on the dial, which makes it easy for a non-expert to guess what they mean (e.g., clockwise from top, video, night portrait, sports, closeups, etc.). Icons are also universal – i.e., independent of language. More advanced (expert) modes are shown with abbreviations – you really need to read the manual before you use any of these (e.g., “Tv” doesn’t mean “television”, but “time value” – i.e., shutter priority)! You could only imagine how much confusion this must cause to novice Canon users. Nikon use single letters instead for the advanced modes.

If we are to empathize with users, we should always try to adopt the mindset of a beginner. What this means is that, as designers (or design thinkers), we should always do our best to leave our own assumptions and experiences behind when making observations. Our life experiences create assumptions within us, which we use to explain and make sense of the world around us. However, this very process affects our ability to empathize in a real way with the people we observe. Since completely letting go of our assumptions is impossible (regardless of how much of a checkered reputation the word “assumption” has!), we should constantly and consciously remind ourselves to assume a beginner’s mindset. It’s helpful if you always remind yourself never to judge what you observe, but to question everything—even if you think you know the answer—and to really listen to what others are saying.

Ask What? How? Why?

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

UX designers’ attitudes towards their work stem from natural curiosity, inquisitive behavior and constant critical appraisal of everything they encounter. Looking for the underlying factors and motives that drive users’ behaviors and needs is what leads to successful design.

By asking the three questions — What? How? Why? — we can move from concrete observations that are free from assumptions to more abstract motivations driving the actions we have observed. During our observations, for instance, we might find separately recording the “Whats”, “Hows” and “Whys” of a person’s single observation helpful.

In “What”, we record the details (not assumptions) of what has happened. In “How”, we analyze how the person is doing what he/she is doing (is he/she exerting a lot of effort? Is that individual smiling or frowning?). Finally, in “Why”, we make educated guesses regarding the person’s motivations and emotions. These motivations we can then test with users.

Photo and Video User-based Studies

Photographing or recording target users, like other empathizing methods, can help you uncover needs that people have which they may or may not be aware of. It can help guide your innovation efforts, identify the right end users to design for, and discover emotions that guide behaviors.

In user camera-based studies, users are photographed or filmed either: (a) in a natural setting; or (b) during sessions with the design team or consultants you’ve hired to gather information. For example, you might identify a group of people who possess certain characteristics that are representative of your target audience. You record them while they’re experiencing the problem you’re aiming to solve. You can refresh your memory at a later time with things people said, feelings that were evoked, and behaviors that you identified. You can then easily share this with the rest of your team.

Copyright holder: NJM2010, Wikimedia. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-SA 3.0

A group of three tourists, trying to find their way in a city. In this, the researchers’ photo, they are huddled around the map shown on the mobile phone. In the photo, we see how hard a time people have when they try to collaborate using the small screen – the girl in the background, for example, has no way of pointing at things on the screen, and hence can’t help her group as much (photo courtesy of A. Komninos, from Besharat et al. 2016).

Personal Photo and Video Journals

In this method, you hand over the camera to your users and give them instructions, namely to take pictures of or video-record their activities during a specified period. The advantage is that you don’t interfere or disturb the users with your personal presence, even though they will adapt and change their normal behavior slightly as they know that you’ll watch the video or see the photo journal later. In a similar way to using personas, by engaging real people, as designers we gain invaluable personal experiences and stories that keep the human aspect of design firmly in mind throughout the whole process. While we probably know, deep down, what limits are involved when three people are trying to use one phone, there’s nothing like the first-hand evidence of a live (and recorded) performance to put this front and center in our awareness from the outset.

Copyright holder: Andreas Komninos, University of Strathclyde. Copyright terms and license: CC0

Photographs returned by users during a study where they were asked to record cases where they needed to enter text on their mobile or tablet devices. Because the context of use is clearly shown in the pictures, the researchers can understand a lot about where and how text needs to be entered when the returned pictures are good (e.g., in the left image, the user needed to enter a number to pay for parking via mobile, and we can see how much text needed to be entered, the device and even the weather). But not all returned pictures are great! Users are not expert photographers, and they will often return material that isn’t of much use (e.g., on the right, we can see the user is sat comfortably with their tablet, but we have no idea what they were trying to do, because of the camera flash). Images courtesy of A. Komninos, M.D. Dunlop and E. Nicol, University of Strathclyde.

With that in mind, let’s hear from IDEO, a leading international design consulting firm founded in California in 1991:

“We use this method to go beyond an in-person Interview to better understand a person’s context, the people who surround them, community dynamics, and the journey through how they use a product or service. Photojournals can help create a foundation for richer discussion as they prime an individual before an interview which means they start thinking about the subject a few days in advance.”

– IDEO, Designkit.org, Photojournal

Interviews

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Interviews are an important part of the UX designer’s skillset for empathizing with users. However, an interview will yield only minimal results if you are not prepared to conduct it with genuine empathy.

One-on-one interviews can be a productive way to connect with real people and gain insights. Talking directly to the people you’re designing for may be the best way to understand needs, hopes, desires and goals. The benefits are similar to video- and camera-based studies, but interviews are generally structured, and interviewers will typically have a set of questions they wish to ask their interviewees. Interviews, therefore, offer the personal intimacy and directness of other observation methods, while allowing the design team to target specific areas of information to direct the Design Thinking process.

Most of the work happens before the interviews: team members will brainstorm to generate questions to ask users and create themes or topics around the interview questions so they can flow smoothly from one to another.

Engaging with Extreme Users

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Extreme users are few in number, but it doesn’t mean you should disregard them and aim just for the main bulk of users instead. In fact, they can provide excellent insights that other users may simply be unprepared to disclose.

By focusing on the extremes, you will find that the problems, needs and methods of solving problems become magnified. First, you must identify the extremes of your potential user base; then, you should engage with this group to establish their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and then look at the needs you might find in all users. Consider what makes a user extreme and you’ll tend to notice it’s the circumstances involved. A basic example is a grocery store shopping cart and a shopper with five very young children in tow – there are two fold-down seats in the cart, but the other kids (who are also too young to walk) must go somewhere. Our shopper is, therefore, an extreme user of the shopping cart design.

On the one hand, if you can manage to please an extreme user, you should certainly be able to keep your main body of users happy. On the other hand, it is important to note that the purpose of engaging with extreme users is not to develop solutions for those users, but to sieve out problems that mainstream users might have trouble voicing; however, in many cases, the needs of extreme users tend to overlap with the needs of the majority of the population. So, while you may not be able to keep everyone happy at all times with your design, you can certainly improve the chances that it will not frustrate users.

Analogous Empathy

Using analogies can help the design team to develop new insights. By comparing one domain with another, we as designers can conjure different solutions that would not necessarily come to mind when working within the constraints of one discipline. For example, the highly stressful and time-sensitive procedure of operating on a patient in a hospital emergency room might be analogous to the process of refuelling and replacing the tires of a race car in a pit stop. Some of the methods you might use in analogous empathy include comparing your problem and another in a different field, creating an 'inspiration board' with notes and pictures, and focusing on similar aspects between multiple areas.

Sharing Inspiring Stories

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

In the words of the great author Terry Pratchett, “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.” We might paraphrase slightly here, as it’s true that products are shaped by the stories that people tell about them.

Each person in a design team will collect different pieces of information, have different thoughts, and come up with different solutions. For this reason, you should share your inspiring stories to collect all of the team members’ research, from field studies, interviews, etc. By sharing the stories that each member has observed, the team can get up to speed on progress, draw meaning from the stories, and capture interesting details of the observation work.

Bodystorming

Copyright holder: Bank of England, Flickr. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-ND 2.0

A person wearing special goggles that simulate vision impairments, trying to accomplish a simple task (seizing a grain of rice with the tweezers and moving it to the adjacent empty container). Acting out different scenarios can help the researchers themselves better understand the problems that a particular user group might face. This is literally stepping into the users’ shoes!

Bodystorming is the act of physically experiencing a situation in order to immerse oneself fully in the users’ environment. This requires a considerable amount of planning and effort, as the environment must be filled with the artifacts present in the real-world environment, and the general atmosphere/feel must accurately depict the users’ setting. Bodystorming puts the team in the users’ shoes, thereby boosting the feelings of empathy we need as designers in order to come up with the most fitting solutions. Having that ‘real-life’ experience will serve as a reference point for later in the process, enabling us to stop, stand back and ask ourselves: “Remember when we tried being the user? How would this new thing fit in with that?”

The Take Away

When we are in a Design Thinking team, we have a wealth of ways at our disposal to enable us to empathize with our users. Collectively, these methods offer us insight into the users’ needs, and how they think, feel, and behave. Each method attempts to enhance the design team's understanding of their target user and market, and to appreciate exactly what users need and want from their product(s). Observation methods will not only enable us to gather raw data, statistics and demographics; they will also offer opportunities for us to draw insights that we can then apply in designing a solution. Empathizing with users is an essential component of the Design Thinking process; to ignore the benefits of learning from others is to forget what Design Thinking is truly about. Hence, we must, to an appropriate degree, ‘become’ our users if we are to offer them fine-tuned solutions that lead in the market.

References & Where to Learn More

Course: Design Thinking - The Beginner's Guide:
https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/design-thinking-the-beginner-s-guide

d.school Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013:
https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources/the-bootcamp-bootleg

IDEO.org: http://www.designkit.org/methods

Besharat, J., Komninos, A., Papadimitriou, G., Lagiou, E., & Garofalakis, J. (2016). Augmented paper maps: Design of POI markers and effects on group navigation. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments, 8(5), 515-530.

Literature on Empathy

Here’s the entire UX literature on Empathy by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Featured article

Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your Users

Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your Users

Design Thinking cannot begin without a deeper understanding of the people you are designing for. In order to gain those insights, it is important for you as a design thinker to empathize with the people you’re designing for so that you can understand their needs, thoughts, emotions and motivations. The good news is that you have a wide range of methods at your command for learning more about people. The even better news is this: with enough mindfulness and experience, anyone can become a master at empathizing with people.

The first stage (or mode) of the Design Thinking process involves developing a sense of empathy towards the people you are designing for, to gain insights into what they need, what they want, how they behave, feel, and think, and why they demonstrate such behaviors, feelings, and thoughts when interacting with products in a real-world setting.

"Engaging with people directly reveals a tremendous amount about the way they think and the values they hold. Sometimes these thoughts and values are not obvious to the people who hold them. A deep engagement can surprise both the designer and the designee by the unanticipated insights that are different from what they actually do - are strong indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the way the world is."

– d. School Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013

Developing Empathy towards People

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The five stages of Design Thinking are not always sequential — they do not have to follow any specific order, and you will find they can often occur in parallel and you can repeat them iteratively. As such, the stages should be understood as different modes that contribute to a project, rather than sequential steps. However, most projects begin with an “Empathizing” phase.

To gain empathy towards people, we as design thinkers often observe them in their natural environment passively or engage with them in interviews. Also, as design thinkers, we should try to imagine ourselves in these users’ environment, or stepping into their shoes as the saying goes, in order to gain a deeper understanding of their situations. In the following sections, we will outline some methods from d.school Bootcamp Bootleg that will allow you to gain empathy towards your users.

Assuming a Beginner’s Mindset

Copyright holder: the Author. Copyright terms and license: CC0

The mode dial of a Canon EOS Digital SLR camera. How would a beginner photographer know what to choose? To help beginners, fully automatic modes are represented with icons on the dial, which makes it easy for a non-expert to guess what they mean (e.g., clockwise from top, video, night portrait, sports, closeups, etc.). Icons are also universal – i.e., independent of language. More advanced (expert) modes are shown with abbreviations – you really need to read the manual before you use any of these (e.g., “Tv” doesn’t mean “television”, but “time value” – i.e., shutter priority)! You could only imagine how much confusion this must cause to novice Canon users. Nikon use single letters instead for the advanced modes.

If we are to empathize with users, we should always try to adopt the mindset of a beginner. What this means is that, as designers (or design thinkers), we should always do our best to leave our own assumptions and experiences behind when making observations. Our life experiences create assumptions within us, which we use to explain and make sense of the world around us. However, this very process affects our ability to empathize in a real way with the people we observe. Since completely letting go of our assumptions is impossible (regardless of how much of a checkered reputation the word “assumption” has!), we should constantly and consciously remind ourselves to assume a beginner’s mindset. It’s helpful if you always remind yourself never to judge what you observe, but to question everything—even if you think you know the answer—and to really listen to what others are saying.

Ask What? How? Why?

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

UX designers’ attitudes towards their work stem from natural curiosity, inquisitive behavior and constant critical appraisal of everything they encounter. Looking for the underlying factors and motives that drive users’ behaviors and needs is what leads to successful design.

By asking the three questions — What? How? Why? — we can move from concrete observations that are free from assumptions to more abstract motivations driving the actions we have observed. During our observations, for instance, we might find separately recording the “Whats”, “Hows” and “Whys” of a person’s single observation helpful.

In “What”, we record the details (not assumptions) of what has happened. In “How”, we analyze how the person is doing what he/she is doing (is he/she exerting a lot of effort? Is that individual smiling or frowning?). Finally, in “Why”, we make educated guesses regarding the person’s motivations and emotions. These motivations we can then test with users.

Photo and Video User-based Studies

Photographing or recording target users, like other empathizing methods, can help you uncover needs that people have which they may or may not be aware of. It can help guide your innovation efforts, identify the right end users to design for, and discover emotions that guide behaviors.

In user camera-based studies, users are photographed or filmed either: (a) in a natural setting; or (b) during sessions with the design team or consultants you’ve hired to gather information. For example, you might identify a group of people who possess certain characteristics that are representative of your target audience. You record them while they’re experiencing the problem you’re aiming to solve. You can refresh your memory at a later time with things people said, feelings that were evoked, and behaviors that you identified. You can then easily share this with the rest of your team.

Copyright holder: NJM2010, Wikimedia. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-SA 3.0

A group of three tourists, trying to find their way in a city. In this, the researchers’ photo, they are huddled around the map shown on the mobile phone. In the photo, we see how hard a time people have when they try to collaborate using the small screen – the girl in the background, for example, has no way of pointing at things on the screen, and hence can’t help her group as much (photo courtesy of A. Komninos, from Besharat et al. 2016).

Personal Photo and Video Journals

In this method, you hand over the camera to your users and give them instructions, namely to take pictures of or video-record their activities during a specified period. The advantage is that you don’t interfere or disturb the users with your personal presence, even though they will adapt and change their normal behavior slightly as they know that you’ll watch the video or see the photo journal later. In a similar way to using personas, by engaging real people, as designers we gain invaluable personal experiences and stories that keep the human aspect of design firmly in mind throughout the whole process. While we probably know, deep down, what limits are involved when three people are trying to use one phone, there’s nothing like the first-hand evidence of a live (and recorded) performance to put this front and center in our awareness from the outset.

Copyright holder: Andreas Komninos, University of Strathclyde. Copyright terms and license: CC0

Photographs returned by users during a study where they were asked to record cases where they needed to enter text on their mobile or tablet devices. Because the context of use is clearly shown in the pictures, the researchers can understand a lot about where and how text needs to be entered when the returned pictures are good (e.g., in the left image, the user needed to enter a number to pay for parking via mobile, and we can see how much text needed to be entered, the device and even the weather). But not all returned pictures are great! Users are not expert photographers, and they will often return material that isn’t of much use (e.g., on the right, we can see the user is sat comfortably with their tablet, but we have no idea what they were trying to do, because of the camera flash). Images courtesy of A. Komninos, M.D. Dunlop and E. Nicol, University of Strathclyde.

With that in mind, let’s hear from IDEO, a leading international design consulting firm founded in California in 1991:

“We use this method to go beyond an in-person Interview to better understand a person’s context, the people who surround them, community dynamics, and the journey through how they use a product or service. Photojournals can help create a foundation for richer discussion as they prime an individual before an interview which means they start thinking about the subject a few days in advance.”

– IDEO, Designkit.org, Photojournal

Interviews

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Interviews are an important part of the UX designer’s skillset for empathizing with users. However, an interview will yield only minimal results if you are not prepared to conduct it with genuine empathy.

One-on-one interviews can be a productive way to connect with real people and gain insights. Talking directly to the people you’re designing for may be the best way to understand needs, hopes, desires and goals. The benefits are similar to video- and camera-based studies, but interviews are generally structured, and interviewers will typically have a set of questions they wish to ask their interviewees. Interviews, therefore, offer the personal intimacy and directness of other observation methods, while allowing the design team to target specific areas of information to direct the Design Thinking process.

Most of the work happens before the interviews: team members will brainstorm to generate questions to ask users and create themes or topics around the interview questions so they can flow smoothly from one to another.

Engaging with Extreme Users

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Extreme users are few in number, but it doesn’t mean you should disregard them and aim just for the main bulk of users instead. In fact, they can provide excellent insights that other users may simply be unprepared to disclose.

By focusing on the extremes, you will find that the problems, needs and methods of solving problems become magnified. First, you must identify the extremes of your potential user base; then, you should engage with this group to establish their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and then look at the needs you might find in all users. Consider what makes a user extreme and you’ll tend to notice it’s the circumstances involved. A basic example is a grocery store shopping cart and a shopper with five very young children in tow – there are two fold-down seats in the cart, but the other kids (who are also too young to walk) must go somewhere. Our shopper is, therefore, an extreme user of the shopping cart design.

On the one hand, if you can manage to please an extreme user, you should certainly be able to keep your main body of users happy. On the other hand, it is important to note that the purpose of engaging with extreme users is not to develop solutions for those users, but to sieve out problems that mainstream users might have trouble voicing; however, in many cases, the needs of extreme users tend to overlap with the needs of the majority of the population. So, while you may not be able to keep everyone happy at all times with your design, you can certainly improve the chances that it will not frustrate users.

Analogous Empathy

Using analogies can help the design team to develop new insights. By comparing one domain with another, we as designers can conjure different solutions that would not necessarily come to mind when working within the constraints of one discipline. For example, the highly stressful and time-sensitive procedure of operating on a patient in a hospital emergency room might be analogous to the process of refuelling and replacing the tires of a race car in a pit stop. Some of the methods you might use in analogous empathy include comparing your problem and another in a different field, creating an 'inspiration board' with notes and pictures, and focusing on similar aspects between multiple areas.

Sharing Inspiring Stories

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

In the words of the great author Terry Pratchett, “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.” We might paraphrase slightly here, as it’s true that products are shaped by the stories that people tell about them.

Each person in a design team will collect different pieces of information, have different thoughts, and come up with different solutions. For this reason, you should share your inspiring stories to collect all of the team members’ research, from field studies, interviews, etc. By sharing the stories that each member has observed, the team can get up to speed on progress, draw meaning from the stories, and capture interesting details of the observation work.

Bodystorming

Copyright holder: Bank of England, Flickr. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-ND 2.0

A person wearing special goggles that simulate vision impairments, trying to accomplish a simple task (seizing a grain of rice with the tweezers and moving it to the adjacent empty container). Acting out different scenarios can help the researchers themselves better understand the problems that a particular user group might face. This is literally stepping into the users’ shoes!

Bodystorming is the act of physically experiencing a situation in order to immerse oneself fully in the users’ environment. This requires a considerable amount of planning and effort, as the environment must be filled with the artifacts present in the real-world environment, and the general atmosphere/feel must accurately depict the users’ setting. Bodystorming puts the team in the users’ shoes, thereby boosting the feelings of empathy we need as designers in order to come up with the most fitting solutions. Having that ‘real-life’ experience will serve as a reference point for later in the process, enabling us to stop, stand back and ask ourselves: “Remember when we tried being the user? How would this new thing fit in with that?”

The Take Away

When we are in a Design Thinking team, we have a wealth of ways at our disposal to enable us to empathize with our users. Collectively, these methods offer us insight into the users’ needs, and how they think, feel, and behave. Each method attempts to enhance the design team's understanding of their target user and market, and to appreciate exactly what users need and want from their product(s). Observation methods will not only enable us to gather raw data, statistics and demographics; they will also offer opportunities for us to draw insights that we can then apply in designing a solution. Empathizing with users is an essential component of the Design Thinking process; to ignore the benefits of learning from others is to forget what Design Thinking is truly about. Hence, we must, to an appropriate degree, ‘become’ our users if we are to offer them fine-tuned solutions that lead in the market.

References & Where to Learn More

Course: Design Thinking - The Beginner's Guide:
https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/design-thinking-the-beginner-s-guide

d.school Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013:
https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources/the-bootcamp-bootleg

IDEO.org: http://www.designkit.org/methods

Besharat, J., Komninos, A., Papadimitriou, G., Lagiou, E., & Garofalakis, J. (2016). Augmented paper maps: Design of POI markers and effects on group navigation. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments, 8(5), 515-530.

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Learn more about Empathy

Take a deep dive into Empathy with our course Design Thinking: The Beginner's Guide.

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford d.school, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking.

This course contains a series of practical exercises that build on one another to create a complete design thinking project. The exercises are optional, but you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience with the methods you encounter in this course if you complete them, because they will teach you to take your first steps as a design thinking practitioner. What’s equally important is you can use your work as a case study for your portfolio to showcase your abilities to future employers! A portfolio is essential if you want to step into or move ahead in a career in the world of human-centered design.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

All literature

5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a ha...

  • 170 shares
  • 1 month ago
Design Thinking: A Quick Overview

Design Thinking: A Quick Overview

If you have just started embarking your journey through the Design Thinking process, things might seem a little overwhelming. This is why we have prepared a useful overview of the Design Thinking process, as well as some of the popular Design Thinking frameworks commonly used by global design firms and national design agencies. To begin, let’s ...

  • 91 shares
  • 2 days ago
Design Thinking: Getting Started with Empathy

Design Thinking: Getting Started with Empathy

Empathy is an important element in Design Thinking and Human-Centred Design. What is empathy exactly? Why is empathy so important to designing solutions that actually work for people? Here, we’ll not only look at what empathy means, but will also look at how it helps design thinkers create solutions that work and, conversely, how a lack of empat...

  • 290 shares
  • 1 year ago
Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your Users

Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your Users

Design Thinking cannot begin without a deeper understanding of the people you are designing for. In order to gain those insights, it is important for you as a design thinker to empathize with the people you’re designing for so that you can understand their needs, thoughts, emotions and motivations. The good news is that you have a wide range of ...

  • 354 shares
  • 1 month ago
How to Develop an Empathic Approach in Design Thinking

How to Develop an Empathic Approach in Design Thinking

Empathy requires us to put aside our learning, culture, knowledge, opinions, and worldview purposefully in order to understand other peoples’ experiences of things deeply and meaningfully. It requires a strong sense of imagination for us to be able to see through another person’s eyes. It requires humility so we can seek to abandon our preconcei...

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  • 1 month ago
Creating Personas from User Research Results

Creating Personas from User Research Results

When you’re in the beginning stages of your design project and you have just finished some highly informative interviews and observations in the context of your users, your head is full of impressions. You have a feeling for the different types of users who exist, and you have heard some similarities in their stories that you feel should guide t...

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  • 21 minutes ago
What Kind of Prototype Should You Create?

What Kind of Prototype Should You Create?

So, you want to create prototypes to help in your design process or Design Thinking project. However, what kind of prototype should you create? How detailed should your prototype be? What should your prototype be created for? If you’re asking yourself these questions, then great, because you’re on the right track! We will go through the differen...

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  • 1 month ago
7 Simple Ways to Get Better Results from Ethnographic Research

7 Simple Ways to Get Better Results from Ethnographic Research

The first step in any User Experience or Design Thinking process should involve getting to know your users. When starting a project from scratch or moving into a new market, you may not have any experience or a deep understanding of your users. Ethnographic research, such as user observation and interviews, will allow you to discover who your us...

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  • 4 weeks ago
The Power of Stories in Building Empathy

The Power of Stories in Building Empathy

Storytelling plays a huge role in User Experience design and in the Design Thinking process. Storytelling creates a compelling narrative around the people we’re designing for so that we as designers can develop a deep and emotional understanding of their motivations and needs. Stories have the ability to form a common thread throughout a project...

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  • 1 week ago
Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies

Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies

Hospital emergency rooms have been inspired by F1 pit stop crews. Henry Ford's assembly line was inspired by observing systems within slaughterhouses and grain warehouses. Executives, artists, writers and all kinds of other creative professionals have relied on creating analogies as a powerful tool for empathising with audiences and communicatin...

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  • 2 years ago
Workshops to Establish Empathy and Understanding from User Research Results

Workshops to Establish Empathy and Understanding from User Research Results

Honestly, how much do you enjoy reading research reports? And how engaging do you find them? Unsurprisingly, receiving a report with your insights into the target group may not get your clients to empathize with the potential users of their product or service optimally. Alternatively, you might consider organizing a workshop for them. This allow...

  • 344 shares
  • 1 week ago
Workshops to Establish Empathy and Understanding from User Research Results

Workshops to Establish Empathy and Understanding from User Research Results

Honestly, how much do you enjoy reading research reports? And how engaging do you find them? Unsurprisingly, receiving a report with your insights into the target group may not get your clients to empathize with the potential users of their product or service optimally. Alternatively, you might consider organizing a workshop for them. This allow...

  • 536 shares
  • 6 months ago
Sympathetic Bonding and Why It’s Useful in Design

Sympathetic Bonding and Why It’s Useful in Design

Sympathetic bonding occurs when we perceive someone else’s emotional reaction to be similar to our own experiences. As such, we feel sympathy for that person. It should be obvious that when we are sympathetic to people, we’re more likely to do the things they do and even—to some extent—do the things they want us to do. How do you create such sym...

  • 446 shares
  • 2 years ago