Beth Dean on empathy and design

Empathy in Design talk by Beth Dean

This twenty minute talk by Beth Dean is super insightful and fun to watch.

Beth Dean is an accomplished designer and is working with Facebook (on authenticity and transparency). She has also taken some time to elaborate on emotional intelligence in design elsewhere.

When I wrote about the role of empathy in design a couple of years ago, I claimed that good designers need to have strengths in certain emotional intelligence competencies: problem solving, social responsibility, reality testing and empathy. But I didn’t give any clear examples why.

Part of Dean’s brilliance is her use of concrete cases. Many of these examples are hilariously, and tragically, drawn from her own life experience. In one example she reflects on the way companies market Mother’s Day to her, even though her mother has died and her relationship to Mother’s Day is complicated. In another instance, Dean tells us about how one kind of upsell technique from the travel industry has an alienating affect of certain customers. Perhaps most importantly, she touches on the importance of making edge cases, or stress cases, a design priority.

All of this speaks to the importance of human centred design and the role of emotional intelligence in understanding just what is human.

And even though Dean is working from a slightly different model of emotional intelligence than the one that we use here at EITC, her analysis is highly relevant and very much appreciated.




Two art pieces in black and white are displayed onto sand and light sage coloured backgrounds and they look complementary.

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