Challenges of Doing Empathic Design: Experiences from Industry
Carolien Postma, Elly Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, Elke Daemen, Jia Du


Empathic design aims to build creative understanding of users’ experiences for new product development (NPD). In this paper, we review the literature of empathic design, and we discuss our own experiences with introducing and practicing empathic design in several NPD projects at Philips Research over the past years. Having experimented with empathic design in an industrial context, we experienced success but also encountered eight challenges that relate to discrepancies between the theory of empathic design as described in literature on the one hand, and the application of empathic design in an industrial context on the other. Three cultural and methodological changes are proposed for addressing these challenges in the future. These include changing focus (a) from rational approaches to including empathic approaches, (b) from users as informers to users as partners in NPD practice, and (c) from being informed of user research to being engaged in user research. The first two changes strongly resonate with Sanders’ (2006) dimensions of change. The third dimension is new, and highlights an area of empathic design that is largely unaddressed in the literature.

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