Do it Until it Hurts! Empathic Design Research

By Deana McDonagh.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Design is becoming less about products and more about generating positive experiences for users. We need to understand needs beyond the functional in order to develop more appropriate design outcomes. What is emerging is the importance of shared understanding, empathy and emotion within the designing process. Designers are benefiting from the co-creation of knowledge with users as collaborators in the research process, whilst expanding their own empathic horizon. This paper will explore the experience of Industrial Design students who were engaged with a design research project that focused on students with physical disabilities. If we agree that empathy is a good thing, the realisation for the student designer can often lead to them feeling extremely uncomfortable, vulnerable and outside their own familiar comfort zone. The design research journey, student feedback and the challenges of the project will be discussed.

Keywords: Empathy, Design research, Emotion, Disability

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.103-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.328MB).

Dr. Deana McDonagh

Associate Professor, School of Art and Design, Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA

Deana McDonagh PhD, MSc FWDA, FDRS, MIDSA, MIED is an Associate Professor in Industrial Design within the School of Art + Design and a faculty member at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Her research concentrates on the emotional domain of product development and nurturing empathy between the designer and user. She has co-edited four books (Focus Groups Supporting Effective Product Development and Design; Emotion: The Experience of Everyday Things and IMPACT: The Synergy of Design, Business and Technology). More recently she edited REALIZE: Design Means Business. Her PhD was awarded from Loughborough University (UK) and concentrated on developing empathic design research methods to support more effective innovative product development through empathic designing. She concentrates on enhancing quality of life for elders and people with special needs through more effective product solutions.


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