Finding out what other people think – does empathy help consumers or businesses? – Creative Review

Designers often go to great lengths to walk a mile in the shoes of their consumers – but despite what many companies would have you believe, writes Lilly Smith, the goal isn’t always to create a better product. Can business and compassion ever work together?

 

t its best, empathy is a tool to break down prejudices and increase understanding in micro-relationships, creating large-scale, positive social change. At its worst, it’s a buzzword businesses use to mask their true motives.

 

In 1979, industrial designer Patricia Moore conducted her well-known Elder Empathic Experience to better understand what it was like for older people to use common household products. In order to design something her 86-year old grandmother could operate comfortably, Moore went method, wearing uneven shoes to make walking difficult, fogging her glasses, and binding her hands to simulate arthritis. 

 

Lilly Smith