A Systematic Analysis of Mixed Perspectives in Empathic Design: Not One Perspective Encompasses All
Wina Smeenk, Oscar Tomico, Koen van Turnhout


Although it is common for designers to base design decisions on own experiences, the specific utility, and legitimacy, validity of this first-person perspective in design is currently not sufficiently understood and recognized. In particular, wisely applying the first-person perspective in projects that require great sensitivity can be a major contributor to design outcomes. As such, a better understanding of the relative value of the first-person perspective compared to—and combined with—other fundamental perspectives (introduced as perspective transitions and clusters) can contribute to enrich and develop design methodologies.
In this paper we report on a case study targeting mourning. We describe when and how junior designers employed the first-, second-, and third-person perspectives and how they were combined. This leads to new insights. First, we improve the current understanding of perspectives. Second, we identify the specific value of transitions between perspectives. Third, we introduce perspective clusters and highlight how these—as building blocks—can give flexible guidance to design. These insights, in turn, support a mixed-perspectives approach. This approach supports empathic design by enabling designers to be receptive, inclusive, and committed toward users. Moreover, it supports designers in employing (relevant) personal experiences and intuition in a more credible and intentional way.

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