One of the biggest trends in design today is the concept of ‘Empathetic design’ or designing things with the end-user’s feelings and emotions in mind. From literally 1000s of medium articles to multiple part YouTube videos on the subject, you’d think we have this idea on lock.

But how often do we sit at our desks at work, or in a cafe in Chiang Mai and really stop to think ‘am I designing this to make sure every single emotion my user is currently experiencing is accounted for?’ – probably never. And if you do, then well done buddy, you can close this tab.

‘Hey, how are you?‘I’m good but everything in my life is falling apart, my job sucks, I have no love life and my dog shat on the carpet this morning, you?’ ‘yeah fine’

Societal pressures have ensured that our social reflexes in certain situations are almost always the same. The simple question of ‘how are you’ makes us expect the answer ‘Fine, you?’ almost every time, and when we receive a more in-depth response to this question, we feel awkward and unprepared. In design, this social reflex still happens, but most of the time, we don’t realise it until our design is in testing or worse; launched and live…

So how can we prepare ourselves and ensure we are designing with empathy in mind? The simplest way is involving someone else and testing our designs. Next time you’re designing a landing page or an app (or anything), take a moment to stop yourself and try out what you’re designing. Then ask whoever is next to you to try it. ‘But why stop working when I’m on a roll?’, I hear you say, ‘This design is perfect and has no flaws!’ and the simple answer is you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it. (Schrodinger’s Cat)

That beautiful navigation system you’ve made down the right hand side of your design looks and feels awesome, until you give it to a left-handed user who’s childlike thumbs can’t stretch far enough to use it.

Those lovely gradients and colourful call-to-actions seem perfect – until your colour blind grandad can’t actually see them.

That bubbly, playful copy you spent 26 hours going over with your marketing manager reads amazingly – until it’s read by a Vogon, who then decides to destroy your planet to make an interstellar highway.



Now that’s not to say you should totally change what you’re doing – it’s impossible to design something for everyone. But by including someone else, maybe even just one other person in your design process, you might just get an answer other than ‘Yeah, fine thanks’. And with that, you can be sure you’ve given design empathy a fair chance.

Interested in further exploration into Design Empathy? makeitpop has just the creative task you need. Take the power out of your hands and focus your design brain on a red-card client. You don’t know empathy until you’ve tried to get into the mind of an abandoned slug, a used lipstick dealer or a white power advocate and designed something for their needs.