The first stage of Design Thinking: creating empathy

March 05, 2020 | Elin Fredriksson | Change Stories, Design Thinking, Innovation, Methods & Tools, Problem-solving, SDC Experiences |


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Loraine DingFaivre_Jérôme

At cinfo, we use this approach more and more often to tackle different projects. Without being experts, we share our enthusiasm with you – and hope you will give it a try yourself!

Loraine Ding and Jérôme Faivre, Cinfo

The ABC of Design Thinking

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach. What makes it so special? It is based on several core principles:



This mindset makes design thinking an approach that fosters innovation, is playful to implement, and increases the likelihood that the solutions developed will meet users’ needs.

The method can be used in all types of projects – for example, to improve a session format, to design a development project, to optimise your communication with your target groups….

At cinfo, we have applied design thinking to conceptualise and organise an event, and to improve our exposure at career fairs. More projects to come!

Empathising with our users

So, how does a design thinking process work?


Source :

The first step is crucial: by gathering information through interviews, observation, or first-hand experience, we try to fully understand our users’ needs and problems (be it clients, beneficiaries, employees…).

Let’s look at this situation:


What does this person need? Some people will think of a bridge (one workshop participant answered this question with “a fire, a cervelas and a beer”).

The answer is… we don’t know. As long as we have not developed empathy for that person, we develop solutions without knowing if they really address the problem.

Methods to empathise

Fortunately, there are many methods available to better understand our users. One of them is the “what / how / why” method. It allows to separate the different degrees of observation of a situation, to consciously set our hypotheses aside and to testing them with users.

In order to include all users in our thinking, the Extreme Users method is very useful.

We can also stage a situation and do a role play.

All in all, methods to develop empathy can be classified into three trends:

  • We observe these people in their natural environment in a passive way;
  • We engage interviews with them;
  • We imagine ourselves in their environment, we put ourselves in their shoes.

A framework to be used throughout the process

Even if we feel that we know the users of our projects by heart, it is worth making an extra effort at the beginning of the process to deepen our empathy. This perspective will help us throughout the creative process. It can be summarised, for example, in the form of one or more “persona(s)”, which will represent our target audience.

Curious to learn more?

You will find very useful explanations and tools under the following links:

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