EMPATHY MAPPING IN DESIGN THINKING.

by Charles Leon about a month ago in how to

Applied Design Thinking.

EMPATHY MAPPING IN DESIGN THINKING.

Mapping is one of the many visual and graphic ways used to solve problems or challenges and is extensively used by designers, marketers and problem solvers to be able to develop a deeper understanding of a specific area.

Empathy Mapping is a simple but effective tool used to visualize user/consumer/ target market attitudes and behaviors. By making the map visual and directing the inquiry at a specific target we are able to build a much better picture of our market. It’s often the case that these kinds of maps can reveal where we have gaps in our existing data and where we have made assumptions.

You can download the full Empathy Map here.

An Empathy Map is useful to identify the user so that we can design or solve problems and challenges from their point of view. We can then understand and prioritize user needs.

But this sort of map, when used in a team, will create a collaborative visualization tool to better understand the user and help in making decisions. It also allows us to be able to communicate the persona or community to others.

It is impossible to design anything without deciding (by assumption and correctly or not) without having someone in mind who cares about the solution.

Empathy Maps are usually used at the beginning of a design/problem-solving process and are usually kept alive by constantly revisiting and revising.

A TYPICAL EMPATHY MAP WILL CONTAIN 4 QUADRANTS. IN THIS EXAMPLE, I HAVE ADDED IN GOALS, PAINS AND GAINS.

Say & Do.

What does or might the user/target market say or do? What actions and behaviors do they show when they experience the outcome? How do they use language? This segment is all about verbs and helps to identify their attitudes towards the given problem. Observation of behavior is invaluable. Daily diaries will also help. Do they have any physical problems or difficulties?

Think & Feel.

How does the user think about the ideal solution to the challenge? What do they feel? What emotions do they show? What do they fear or mistrust? Here we begin to look into the emotions of the user, both conscious and unconscious, rational and irrational. To some extent too, it’s worth thinking about what thoughts motivate what behaviors. This is often described by adjectives.

Hear and See.

This quadrant helps us to flesh out the user experience by making the picture we have as real and as vivid as possible. When we vividly visualize the world in which our user exists, what the see, what they hear, what they eat, what they smell, and what they touch, we build a strong picture of the end-user that is memorable and clear.

Pains and Gains.

Most people move away from pain towards comfort. If we can identify the pain and pleasure points, we begin to identify what people care about and what matters to them. What success is and how it may be measured to them.

Goals.

Finally, once we have filled in all the quadrants, we can look at the users' higher aims and goals. Here we begin to understand better what has meaning and purpose. What really drives our target user! It’s worth looking at this from various different viewpoints: financial, Spiritual, Physical, relationships etc. Our purpose is to be able to stand in the shoes of our users and be able to understand things from their point of view.

You’ll probably find that many items overlap or are ambiguous. The idea is not to focus on precision but to focus on gaining an insightful and vivid picture as possible of the user. The item may be similar or the same, but the context will be different. This may signal that further research is needed.

Process for Design/Problem-Solving using Mapping:

1. Define your scope and your goals. Define your purpose. Spend time understanding the question you are asking and challenging the question.

2. Get a large whiteboard or sheet of paper and some (many) post-it notes.

3. Begin adding items to the Empathy Map.

4. Assess what you actually know (the facts), what you thought you knew (Assumptions) and what you need to know (research)

5. Research further. Interviews, Field studies, Diary studies, listening, observations, qualitative studies, quantitative studies.

6. Add to Empathy Map, move things around, discuss, collaborate, make the process enjoyable.

7. Polish, revise, return and revise.

8. Add Empathy Map to other Maps and any other relevant materials.

9. Begin Ideation. Brainstorming, Mapping, playing, what-if scenarios. (Divergent Thinking)

10. Take a break. Incubate the ideas and information.

11. Generate further ideas.

12. Begin initial idea selection.

13. Begin Analysis. (Convergent Thinking)

14. Direction. Make a plan

15. Implement the Plan.

16. Review

17. Take action.

18. Get feedback

19. Review

20. Revise.

Conclusion.

EMPATHY MAPPING COMBINED WITH OTHER MAPS AND TECHNIQUES IS INTEGRAL TO INNOVATION BECAUSE IT:

HELPS US TO REMOVE MENTAL AND COGNITIVE BIASES,

CREATES A SHARED UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHALLENGE.

HELPS TO UNCOVER THE NEEDS, DESIRES AND GOALS OF THE USER.

HELPS TEAMS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT MOTIVATES AND DRIVES BEHAVIOR.

GUIDES US TOWARDS MEANINGFUL INNOVATION.

ABOVE ALL, BE PLAYFUL AND HAVE FUN.

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Charles Leon
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