Core Library: Tools: Design Exercises

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Design thinking is a mindset that enables us to view problems as opportunities, reframing ‘What is wrong?’ into ‘How might we make it right?’. Design thinking gives us the tools to explore the context for problems – to see them from different perspectives, to see them as embedded in larger structures and across longer timeframes, to see below the surface and explore the ‘whys’ and not just the ‘whats’. Design thinking gives us the tools to take the ideas generated by brainstorming, develop them into possible solutions, consider how we will evaluate the success or failure of different prototypes, and launch pilots in the real world. One shared feature of much of design thinking is the effort to focus on the people for whom we are designing – ‘human-centered design’. The design tools that we’ve selected for use here share that focus.

Have you used design exercises to advance equity work on your campus? Annotate the below or suggest other Design Exercises.

Empathy Mapping:

What is Empathy Mapping?

Bringing together diverse teams to engage in design is always a recommended approach, yet even these efforts typically fall short of fully representing the diverse perspectives of different stakeholders. Empathy Mapping is a relatively quick way of working to understand how others may see, contribute to, and be impacted by the problem and possible solutions. Empathy Mapping is similar to Journey Mapping but instead of following the longitudinal view of a single perspective over time, it focuses on how different constituencies might perceive, be impacted by, act upon the same event.It’s important to remember, of course, that all individuals sharing a particular stakeholder constituency will share a common perspective. And Empathy Mapping should never been seen as a substitute for gathering first-hand input from different stakeholders. How and when might I use Empathy Mapping?Empathy Maps have many uses and trying out different approaches to their use can be valuable. For example:

  • It can be useful to have individuals complete Empathy Maps as a means to organize and share their own perspectives as part of a design process.
  • Allowing multiple designers to separately develop empathy maps for different stakeholders and then come together to discuss similarities and differences that each designer identified can improve quality of the empathy maps.
  • Where individuals struggle to complete an Empathy Map for a particular constituency or where different individuals’ Empathy Maps don’t can help designers understand their own implicit biases, assets, and gaps in understanding the equity ecosystem of their institution and serve to guide new research to gather data to inform the Empathy Map.
  • Constructing empathy maps after data gathering (surveys, focus groups, interviews) from different stakeholder constituencies to process and synthesize the data.
  • Empathy Maps can be used as stand-alones and can lead to in-depth role-playing exercises.

What does Empathy Mapping look like in detail?

A sample Empathy Map is shown below. There are many different empathy maps, but useful categories to map out often include the following:

  • Internal thoughts (THINK and FEEL):
  • What matters most in personal goals?
  • What worries and concerns does the individual have?
  • Where does the individual feel empowered/disempowered?
  • How will they experience frustrations and obstacles?
  • How will their personal background and professional position influence their thinking?* Encountering their world (HEAR and SEE):
  • How do they experience their environment?
  • What do others say about them or this work?
  • What experiences do they have access to that are unique?
  • Who influences their work?* External actions (SAY and DO):
  • How do they behave toward others?
  • How do others see them?
  • What responsibilities do they have?
  • How can they make use of opportunities or cope with setbacks?* Consequences (PAIN and GAIN):
  • What do they stand to lose? Of what consequence are those losses?
  • What will they gain? What are measures of success?