A grand day out: empathic approaches to design.
Malins, Julian Paul
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Design education is facing some interesting and challenging times. Students need to be equipped with all the necessary designing skills, whilst being effective interdisciplinary team players and sensitive design researchers. There has been increasing recognition that products and environments need to satisfy functional as well as supra-functional needs (including social, cultural, emotional, aspirational and spiritual). Designers can no longer rely on market intelligence reports on which to make user assumptions and predict user behaviour. More appropriate research approaches are necessary to ensure that develop empathy, shared understanding, and sensitivity to how others communicate. We live in a verbo-centric culture, yet we experience the world visually. More appropriate research methods are essential so that we understand users’ experiences from all perspectives, not just through the spoken word. This paper discusses the emerging shift from passive users to more active users who participate within the design research and designing process as collaborators, which also resonates with the way in which we teach our students to co-create knowledge. With this shift of balance of power and authority, comes the need for our design students to be aware and skilled in multiple design research methods. This paper puts forward a number of methods, which have been developed to increase more empathic design outcomes, whilst incorporating principles of universal access and barrier free design. It examines why it is that many systems and services, which we all use, are so badly designed and what tools are available to the design educator to support a more collaborative approach to designing.