Research: Learning Extreme Empathy by Paul Backett

Industrial Design content and community site – articles, discussions, interviews and resources.


This is the second post in a 6-part series from Ziba’s Industrial Design Director, Paul Backett, on rethinking design education. Read the Introduction to the series, Teach Less, Integrate More here.

Great designers are great empathizers. It’s what separates a design that has soul from one that’s simply well-realized. In my experience as a design director and as a teacher, it’s become painfully clear that the ability to connect with users is something design students must learn, as crucially as they need sketching and CAD….


 The real world, though, is full of unfamiliar design targets, and schools have a responsibility to teach the difficult skill of taking on their perspectives. What students need to learn is not just empathy, but extreme empathy—the flexibility to inhabit the mind of someone dramatically unlike themselves.