Who are you designing for?

For yourself? For the leadership who asked you to drive a new project? Think again. One of the first phases of applying Design Thinking is understanding who your audience is by building a deeper understanding of who you are designing for. Steven Portigal shares a great reminder by saying; “You may be a user but be careful of being seduced into designing for yourself.” 

Once you are familiar with who you are designing for, it is essential to remember that products and services should be always experienced from the user’s perspective via empathy

Empathy 

In Design Thinking, empathy means understanding what the user needs, wants, feels and thinks. It is also a key part understanding why they demonstrate certain behaviors and thoughts. This leads to a question; How can one empathize with the user? To gain empathy with the users we should imagine being in their shoes. Ideally, as a designer it is extremely helpful to observe them in their natural environment, whether that is an office, a factory, a shop or home. Furthermore, if we want to empathize with the users it helps to try to adopt a mindset of a beginner. This means to drop our own assumptions and biases while making those observations. 

The above picture illustrates the importance of empathy in Design Thinking process

Design Thinking is seen as a human-centred approach to solve problems, and in Design Thinking there is also an effective toolkit for innovations (Katja Tschimmel 2012). In the beginning of Service Design process, the importance of collaboration with the users is obvious. According to Kouprie and Visser there are three techniques for empathic research: direct contact, communication and stimulating ideation. Observation is one of the most effective techniques to have direct contact with a user. Beside observation, there are two other base elements of a successful design thinking process: insight and empathy, states Tim Brown. 

Role of Storytelling 

After observation, designer’s next goal is to translate observations to insight and try to represent the user’s experience somehow for example by storytelling.  A good story well told delivers a powerful emotional and perhaps an intimate experience. Storytelling also helps in a biggest challenge of Design Thinking, which is to help people to articulate the latent needs they may not even know they have. Satiro and Tschimmel (2020) have highlighted, that a story makes the message more accessible, and it engage the audience to the innovation. Stories can be formed in multiple ways, such as digital storytelling, visual storytelling, storyboards, scenario generation, storytelling through videos, plays and such.  Based on the storytelling method, we can generate questions and those questions can lead to more innovative ideas and concepts.  

In the picture above, storytelling is represented as a part of the Double Diamond design process model

“You need to turn ideas into stories that matter to people” – Jennifer Greenwood, Storytelling and Design Thinking expert 

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end, just like all innovations processes should have. The one reason why storytelling needs to be part of the design thinker tool kit, is that it organizes information in a temporal and sequential way.  

Written by SID 2022 students Heidi Gustafsson & Minna Vainio

References:

Portigal, S. (2013). Interviewing users. 

Knowledge without borders. 2020. Design Thinking and storytelling. Accessed 23 August 2022.   

Brown, Tim (2019). Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. 2009. A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. In Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5.  

Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for Innovation. In Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona. 

Tschimmel, K. (2018). Toolkit Evolution 62. An E-handbook for practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Porto: Ed.Mindshake. 

Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”.  

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