Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

1 HCD Introduction
2 HCD Organizations
    To Interview
3 Process (overview)
4 Manuals
5 Classes-Workshops
6 The Process
7 In Education
8 Videos
10 Brainstorming
11 Sort
15 Empathy Maps  

Empathic Design Conference
Empathic Design Magazine

   Design and Empathy


HCD Warm-Up Activities






Empathy and HCD  >  6 The Process

1. What is the problem?

  • Creating Design Challenges
    "Why: The primary purpose of design challenge is to set the stage for empathy. It gives students direction and helps instructors coordinate empathy experiences that contain human needs."

2. Empathy
"WHAT is empathizing? [many comments on empathy]
    Empathy is the foundation of a human-centered design process. To empathize, you:
      - Observe. View users and their behavior in the context of their lives.
      - Engage. Interact with and interview users through both scheduled and short ‘intercept’ encounters."
      - Immerse. Experience what your user experiences. "

  • generally the starting point

  • encourages students to ask great questions

  • learn about the audience for whom you are designing

  • collect examples of other attempts to solve the same issue

  • identify existing obstacles

"The goal of the empathy mode is the following:

  • Stories about people, their actions and their motivations

  • Artifacts (photos, drawings, quotes) that capture people, the environment, maps of movement through a space, etc.

  • Deep insights revealed through these stories and artifacts"

dschool: Empathy - WHAT is it?
Depending on the depth that you want to get to, there are multiple activities, projects, lectures and stories to deploy when teaching and/or introducing empathy. The Wallet Project and Oral Hygiene Project are two good short introductions to the importance of human-centered design.


  • LEVEL 1

    • 1. Open-ended Questions 

    • 2. Video observation

  • LEVEL 2

  • LEVEL 3

    • 1. How/Why Laddering

    • 2. Walk in the Moccasins 

    • 3. Day in the life 

    • 4. Personal Box

  • LEVEL 4

    • 1. Powers of 10 

    • 2. Community map 

    • 3. Surveys

Empathy  Maps - See Page Empathy Maps

[Do an empathy map for people who may want to take part in and Empathy workshop.]

What Does an Empathy Map Look Like?
An empathy map consists of a simple face surrounded by six sections:

1. Think & Feel
2. Hear
3. See
4. Say & Do
5. Pain
6. Gain



3. Define

  • redefine the deeper roots of the issue based on new knowledge from empathy

  • determine what will make this project successful

  • identify the needs and motivations of end-users

    • synthesize what was been learned

    • reframe the problem in terms of user needs

    • user need statement

4. Ideate

  • generate as many ideas as possible to serve these identified needs

  • log your brainstorming session

  • (Video Brainstorming)

  • do not judge or debate ideas as this limits creativity

5. Prototype

  • build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show others

  • combine, expand, and refine ideas

  • create multiple drafts

6. Test/Feedback

  • feedback - test the prototype to see how well it meets user needs. Use new information to iterate and improve the prototype.

  • seek feedback from a diverse group of people including end-users

  • review the objective and determine if the solution met its goals

  • avoid consensus thinking and ownership of ideas

  • discuss what could be improve