Innovation Through Empathy Maps

If there is such a thing as a  Design Thinking geek – I’m it. My new favorite Design Thinking technique is Empathy Maps. Empathy Maps are a tool to help synthesize your observations to discover insights about your target audience.

Empathy Maps are to Design Thinking what  SWOT Analysis is to business. They are simple to construct (one of the reasons I like them so much) with four quadrant layout like a SWOT but with this content:

Say: what are some quotes and defining words?

Do: what behaviors have you observed?

Think: what are they thinking?

Feel: what are they feeling?

The prerequisite to an empathy map is some observational research findings that you need to synthesis. This is a great way to map  contextual inquiry data for example.

From this map you should be able to derive your target audiences’ needs – physical and emotional – to inform your experience design.

One of coolest thing that empathy maps help make clear is the contradictions we get about what people “say” and what they “do.” This is the type of insights that leads to real innovation like “I didn’t even know that I needed an iPod” realizations in that we get.

So the next time you have some observational findings in a big, dull report, throw into an Empathy Map to quickly derive insights to your design.