Successful product design is innovative. No questions there. But on top of being ground-breaking, effective product design also needs to align itself with consumer needs (or perceived consumer needs, at least). Researching, designing, testing, manufacturing, and marketing a product that’s inventive and exploits a gap in the market is easier said than done.

And that’s why empathy is such an important part of product design. Seeing the world through other people’s eyes ensures there are no blind spots, and that you have a thorough understanding of the market that you’re designing the concept for in the first place.

Innovation in product design requires empathy, all the way from the initial product research through to manufacturing and distribution.

Why Does Innovation in Product Design Need to be Empathetic?

We live in a world that we’ve designed for ourselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that. From a young age, we’re taught to learn about our likes and dislikes, and the characteristics that make each of us unique.

Personal preference, therefore, influences almost every aspect of our surroundings. Our home, its décor, the clothing we wear, the music we enjoy, and the products we use are all a result of our design choice.

The majority of the decisions we make are to our own benefit. In each of our thoughts and actions, we put ourselves first. So, if we develop new products using that same subconscious design preference, it becomes an issue because you’ve designed something you want, rather than something other people need.

Product design without empathy isn’t inventive, imaginative, or profitable.

Incorporating Empathy into Your Design

Thankfully, from a young age, most are asked to be empathetic, to consider alternate points of view. There are several different ways to incorporate an alternate opinion or mind-set into product design and create a product that’s intended for its target audience.

Interact with Customers

One of the most traditional forms of market research is interacting with consumers. In its simplest form, this research could involve a survey or questionnaire. But it could be more extensive and might include workshops or seminars.

Speak to customers and gather their feedback. Can you understand their point of view? Does their opinion open up a new product angle? 

Who is your product aimed at? You need to define your audience into specific demographics to make sure what you’re looking to create is built for the right types of people. Put yourself in their position by listening to their thoughts. After all, you depend on their buy-in.

Input from different genders, backgrounds, and experiences leads to a rounded and more empathetic product design process. It’s easy to be narrow-minded without even realising it. Or perhaps unconditional bias has crept into the design process unnoticed. 

Different opinions and points of view ensure that every aspect is considered. Moreover, the creative process generates fresh and unique ideas that haven’t been seen before.

A collective empathy creates quality control: you’ll know which ideas to let go of, and which ideas to carry forward to the next stage.

Utilise Expert Input from the Industry

Getting feedback from potential users once you’ve built a prototype is great. You can find out what works and what doesn’t. But if you want to get true innovation, this can only come from the minds of few talented creatives, no matter the industry.

If you’re looking to develop a new product you need to have a vision and you need an exceptional designer to see and create that vision.

Here at 4D, we have a highly experienced and talented team of product designers who have provided designs for a variety of clients. Utilising this knowledge and combined with the in-depth information we receive, we’ll ensure creative outputs are always delivered.