Design is all about people. It always has been and it always will be. Everyone wants to feel heard, special and respected, which is why empathy in design and marketing, is everything. 


Connecting with your customers

For the most part, we as designers only really deal with the client, so it’s easy to forget about the people we’re trying to sell a product/service to. These people all come from different socio-economic backgrounds: schools, families and lifestyles; they all have vastly different hopes, dreams and goals, they have different ideas on how the world should work and so much more, yet we’re trying to convince them all to buy this one product. When we’re trying to connect with a broader audience, empathy is the perfect way to do that. Through empathy you not only make these potential clients feel heard and understood, but you’re also not stepping on any toes (I’m looking at you Gucci).

Another good example of design without empathy is Google Glass. The Glass allowed users to take photos, view information like maps and weather, and send messages via the generally voice-controlled device. Google launched the head-mounted wearable computer in 2013, and while it was a pretty cool technological feat, it didn’t sell very well, in fact it was dubbed a complete failure. It is believed that it’s poor performance is due to the company’s lack of empathy and understanding towards the end-user. 

A few concerns:

  • You look fairly strange walking down the street talking to your glasses.
  • While it is cool to have the maps and messages available, having it right against your eyeball maybe isn’t such a good idea.
  • There was also a privacy concern as the device has a nondescript camera, so users around the wearer had no idea if they’re being filmed or not.
  • The device also didn’t seem to actually solve any user problems.

All of this was nicely summed up by the MIT Technology Review; “No one could understand why you’d want to have that thing on your face, in the way of normal social interaction.”

So to avoid any embarrassment; here are a few tips on how to develop an empathetic approach to design;

  • Abandon your ego – The goal is to understand and experience the feelings of others.
  • Adopt humility – Put others before yourself. You’re designing for the audience, not your portfolio.
  • Be a good listener – Listen to understand, not to retort. This isn’t about you remember? 
  • Hone those observation skills – Often people say one thing but they mean another. Learning to observe body language and environmental queues will go a long way!
  • Care Putting others needs ahead of your own is crucial in building a sense of care. 
  • Be curious – Being curious will naturally make you ask question you normally wouldn’t and might bring some interesting and unexpected insights into the problem.
  • Be sincere – Nothing kills empathy like a lack of sincerity. Your lack of sincerity may also be perceived as arrogance. Which is the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve.

In a nutshell, design is all about creating real connections with real people. The real secret is figuring out how to do that. We should know, because we’re pretty great at it. If you want to chat about how we can help your business be great as well, pop us a mail!

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