Designing with Empathy

  • January 27, 2023
  • 1 min read
  • Jana Jankovic, senior designer

Working with nonprofits is in many ways different than working on commercial projects; the people nonprofits help and their stories are oftentimes much more emotional than any commercial work we've encountered. Our team has teared up more than once reading about the people our nonprofits serve whether it's delivering meals to people who are too sick to cook or shop for themselves or helping marginalized communities of New York find their voice.

Many times we feel sympathy while reading about a given project however we have to make a dedicated effort to stay empathetic as opposed to feeling sympathetic. Sympathy detaches us from the person by feeling sorry for them, empathy puts us in that person’s shoes and helps us understand their needs.

Many experts and practitioners talk about how empathy is central to human-centered design and we agree. We believe that trying to understand the problems people are facing is central in to communicating with them. Changing deadlines, managing budgets, and new projects in a busy studio always present challenges to our focus which is why, as a studio, we start each project review with a discussion on empathy in respect to the given client.

Example of empathic work

In the year ahead we are committed to continuing to practice empathy as a skill, cultivate it and use in our design processes. Considering the world we are living in today and design challenges we are constantly facing, it's truly important to ensure we understand others.

Example of empathic work

Below you’ll find references and resources discussing empathy in design that we have used to keep us on track. Hope you’ll find them useful!