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  • Writer's pictureDiksha Pandey





Empathize word is derived from the word Empathy, which means the ability to imagine how another person is feeling and so understand his/her mood. In order to empathize one needs to focus on understanding the emotions that someone else is feeling and being able to identify with them to put yourself in their shoes. Empathize is the first step in Design Thinking which is a proven and repeatable problem-solving methodology.

The user-centered approach focus on empathizing with the user from the research phase to the testing phase. Changing and challenging situations increase the risk of every business organization therefore design Thinking helps in innovation with minimum risk and cost. Before we understand how to empathize and more, let us know what is Design Thinking and the importance of empathize stage in Design Thinking.

What is Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a user-centered way of thinking about one’s own participation in the problem-solving process. Design thinking is a non-linear process that involves various steps followed whenever necessary. To empathize during Design Thinking we need a team that should be cross-functional, representing key areas of the organization i.e. Technology, Business, and Users.

We empathize with the end users to solve the particular problem. The Design Thinking team should have different expertise to solve a problem, a diverse set of perspectives to empathize in a better way, and an approach to uncover the real needs and desires of the target market.

What are the 3 types of empathy?

In order to empathize with your customers what are the 3 types of empathy used by the Design Thinking team. So when asked how to empathize with someone, the answer is using 3 types of empathy.

  • Active Empathy: React through sensation and feeling, to the emotions of others.

  • Cognitive Empathy: Ability to understand and identify other people's emotions.

  • Compassionate Empathy: Ability to understand and identify with the emotions of others but also spontaneously move to help.

What is empathize vs sympathy?

What is empathize vs sympathy?

Empathy and sympathy have a very fine line difference and are closely relative words. Empathy is the ability of an individual to feel the emotions of others and be able to understand them.

Empathy allows people to build social connections with others and learn to regulate their own emotions. Empathy promotes helping behavior. But sympathy, on the other hand, means that you can identify the feelings of others, not that you share those emotions.

Sympathy is understanding someone from your own point of view whereas empathy is putting yourself into others' situations and then understanding their situation. According to David Hume, this sympathetic concern is driven by a switch in viewpoint from a personal perspective to the perspective of another group or individual who is in need.

What empathized in Design Thinking

Empathize is the first step in Design Thinking which requires an emotional understanding of a problem in order to solve it. Designing Thinking is all about giving priority to users, therefore, empathize phase becomes the essential tool and step of design thinking.

In order to empathize with the customer, the empathize stage can be divided into two parts-

  1. Problem description

  2. Research

Problem Description:

Empathize phase of design thinking focuses on the problem description. It is essential for the team to know the problem and the reason for the problem. In order to get profitable solutions team should empathize on-

  • What is the problem?

  • Who is affected?

  • When has this been a problem?

  • Where is the problem?

  • Where did the problem come from?

  • Why is the problem worth solving?


Research with empathy is the key tool of design thinking. Research is done in different fields and at different levels.

  • User understanding through




  • Technology

New and updated

Evaluation and needs

  • Business

Market analysis

Market need

What is the purpose of the empathize step?

Empathize phase is conducted in order to understand the problem of the user. It is an open-ended process. Generally, people ask what is the purpose of the empathize step in Design Thinking. The goal of the empathize stage is to emerge with a clear problem definition. Empathize the tool for innovation in the context of Design Thinking which helps in distinguishing between what people say they would do in a particular situation and what they actually do.

For example, a client wants to increase sales on their website, so ask you to create an engaging social media presence but you discover that the design is not up to date and as per customer choice so no media engagement will help. Therefore to empathize with the correct problem is a very essential task in Design Thinking. Choosing the wrong problem or solution as a problem would make the empathize phase ineffective.

What is key idea of empathize?

What is the key idea of empathize or the objective to empathize is the other question in the mind of the designer. The main objective of the empathize phase is to identify what users say and what they do in a particular situation. Designers who empathize are good listeners and communicators.

The key idea of empathize phase is-

1. To understand that people can have different perspectives and points of view.

2. To know how to allow room for the users and respect their point of view. They do not judge the user.

3. They change their communication style to adapt to new situations.

4. They are curious to know and interested to learn. They also focus on facial expression and body language

5. They practice implementing empathy in everyday life and situations.

What are empathy tools in design thinking?

  1. Interview: It is the conversation between a researcher and the end-user to get personal information on experience and perspective on sensitive information. A specific set of questions are prepared in order to conduct these interviews.

  1. Participant observation: Researchers spend time to see what happened during a course of action, how the user completed a specific task, and why they did it.

  1. Focus group: The designer chooses a group of small users to have a discussion which is useful when quick information is required and is not sensitive and controversial.

  1. Photo or Video-based study: Empathizing on the users' natural environment photos or videos are taken of the end-user and then sessions with the design team or consultants are conducted.

  1. Personal photo/ video journals: Asking the users to shoot their experiences while approaching a problem helps the team to empathize with the user more efficiently as the user may focus on what they find more important.

  1. Engaging with end-users: In order to collect sensitive information or to be one-to-one with the end-users, this technique is used.

In order to test a specific technology on a specific group of users, this technique is very helpful. An accurate portfolio should be made in order to collect information.

  1. Analogous empathy: The team should find specific criteria in order to compare or draw parallel lines between the users' problems and problems in other fields.

  1. Sharing inspiring stories: Team members should share their experiences of observation with each other so that meaningful solutions are drawn.

  1. Personas: They are the fictitious characters that a team develops on the basis of the research in order to specify the users' types, profiles, statuses, brands, etc who will interact with the product.

  1. Empathy map: Empathy map helps to know your user properly and also share this knowledge with the entire team. It helps to understand the needs of users which could also be shared and helpful in the decision-making process.

What are the key elements of an empathy map?

  • Who we empathize with: Empathising with the end-user in order to create a solution is the main aim of design thinking therefore the end-users should be clear in the mind of the design thinking team.

  • What do they say: They should be direct quotes of what the user has said in the empathy map. Like answers to the interview process.

  • What they think: Sometimes in the interview, the user does not say what he thinks because of certain reasons like the price of a product due to status issues therefore considering what he might think is also very important.

  • What they do: Focusing on the action he does while completing a task like online purchasing does he make a comparison of products on the same website or also consider other websites?

  • What they feel: Empathy focuses on feelings, therefore the emotion of the user's experiences is very important. The user is happy, frustrated, and needy while online purchasing.

  • What they hear: Users nowadays are influenced by the experiences of other customers. Focusing on market reputation, its impact on a customer, or before answering what customers hear and understand it is important for the researcher to understand what users hear.

  • What decision they make: An empathy map is very essential because it helps you to estimate the decision of the user. Keeping all the factors in mind, understanding what decisions a customer take is very important to analyze and empathize with the customer.

What is empathy with example?

Dubai airport Vs Italy airport

Many people use airlines as a mode of transportation to travel from one place to another with different motives and mindsets. In such a case when people spend a lot of money they want their journey to be peaceful and comfortable.

The airport in Italy is said to be inefficient as the customers have to wait for the information they want. They have small screens which repeatedly show the same information as a result customers have to wait a long time to see their flight information.

This shows a lack of empathy with the customers and not appreciating them as human beings while communicating what you understand as an organizer.

On the other hand, Dubai airports are said to be well organized as they have big screens for instant information and good experience. They are best for their fast process for calm experiences and being on time.

This shows that they empathize with their customer and understand the feelings and mindset of a customer who might be already late for their flight.

Empathizing with your users' needs and the context they are in is very essential in the process of design thinking. Helping the users to achieve their goals in the best way by using the inside you have gained through empathy is the goal of design thinking.


What is Design thinking without empathy?

Ans. Design Thinking is the process of finding a solution by understanding the users’ needs and wants by stepping into their shoes. This cannot be done without empathizing with the customers.

What is the objective of empathy step design thinking?

Ans. The main objective of the empathy step is to identify user needs. Differentiate between what a user says and what they actually do in a particular situation.

Is empathy the right starting point for design thinking?

Ans. Design thinking is a non-linear process therefore it is not necessary to follow a sequence of steps while performing it. But without empathy research design thinking would be of no use.

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