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User Extreme Conditions to Enhance Designer Empathy and Creativity: Applications Using Visual Impairment

[+] Author Affiliations
Sujithra Raviselvam, Kristin L. Wood

Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore

Katja Hölttä-Otto

Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Paper No. DETC2016-59602, pp. V007T06A005; 9 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 28th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, August 21–24, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5019-0
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Designers often design for people unlike themselves. Many design tools and methods have been developed to support the designers in this task. One area is empathic design, where, simulated scenarios allow the designers to experience a situation that is less likely to be accessed otherwise. These simulated scenarios are widely used and past studies have shown these methods enhance designer creativity or evoke designer empathy. In this paper we investigate to what extent these simulated scenarios help increase designer empathy and creativity and how it compares to only being briefed about the target population. In this study 36 subjects took part in a workshop that included a briefing about the life of people with visual impairments as well as a simulation of such scenarios. Participants’ levels of creativity and empathy were assessed at three different stages during the workshop: (i) Pre-workshop, (ii) Post-briefing and (iii) Post-simulation. The results show that, the participants’ creativity in terms of novelty, quantity and breadth of the ideas was significantly high after the simulation when compared to only being briefed about the situation. There were no differences in the idea feasibility. All ideas were technically feasible. Also participant empathy increased significantly from before the workshop to post-simulation. A further comparison of the workshop reflections from both participants and volunteers with visual impairments were used to understand the extent to which the participants were able to empathize with people with visual impairments. We find the simulated scenario improved the participants’ ability to understand the simulated population compared to the before workshop state, but nevertheless, the participants were unable to match the level of detail given by the people with actual visual impairments.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
Topics: Creativity



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