Building Empathy – Generative Research Activity

As part of our third homework I had my roommates Adam and Max complete three tasks. The results mostly very similar, yet sometimes different. Here is what they answered:

Task: “Close to you”

Adam:

can’t live without:

  • the internet – why – “gives me instant access to anything I want to know, without it I would be lost”
  • meat
  • phone
  • fridge
  • air-conditioning – why- “to live without ac in Texas would be a life of pain and sadness”
  • toothpaste

what I care about:

  • Mexican food – “I just like the spiciness, I grew up with it”
  • vine
  • shoes
  • laptop
  • cheese
  • rocket league video game, Xbox – why – “I just something fun to do, it’s challenging, satisfying”

Max:

can’t live without:

  • family – why- “because they have been with me and supported me whole life”
  • friends
  • hobby (fitness)
  • Asian food
  • computer – why – “that’s how get all of my information and how I learn”

what I care about:

  • fashion – “because I like good stile and its very appealing visually”
  • good weather
  • games- video games
  • travel – “so I can visit place I have never been before and have fun environment”

Task: “Digital Ecosystem”

 Inkedadam 2_LI

  • For the 2 or 3 you use most often, please explain for what, how, and/or why you use that source

online video
what – YouTube, Netflix
how – phone, laptop
why – it is entertaining

reddit
what – online forum
how – phone, laptop
why – entertainment, knowledge, curiosity

Max:

 Max

  • For the 2 or 3 you use most often, please explain for what, how, and/or why you use that source

reddit – what – online forum
how – phone, laptop
why – it has everything and its organized in sections

web research – what- just search engine
how – phone, laptop
why – it automatically gives you the info you need

Task: Typical Weekday

Adam: 

Inkedadam_3

  • Are there any parts of your day during which you seem to access a bit more information categories?

“I am probably done with school or work, so I want to do stuff with low cognitive effort like watch videos, relax, read something”

Max: 

max2

  • Are there any parts of you day during which you seem to access a bit more information categories ?

“I would say evening. That is when I am free and I am not so tiered.”

 thoughts-squiggles-2

My toughs on the research outputs: 

The results were overall similar. This can be explained by the similar background of the test participants. Both are 21-year-old, study engineering and come from Texas. Some of the mentioned similarities are: they both identified computer as something they could not live without, they both stated Reddit as their primary source of information and said that they access information more at the evening. Some of the differences I noticed are that one of the two guys seems more emotionally attached to his family and friends, while the other considers physical objects as something what he cannot live without. Furthermore, one participant receives more of his news from social media while the other relies more on conventional media. Finally, even though both say that they access more information on the evening, they differ on how much they access information until noon. I found it very interesting to notice that evening is a period where people access information the most. This information can be very important for companies which do advertising because the placement of ads on the evening will increase the likelihood that their ad will be noticed by the consumer.

I believe these tools give great insights in customer behaviour and provide additional information that should be considered when building a persona. A persona used for marketing purposes points out information about demographic, employment, character but fails to provide information like how and when does the research object access the information he needs, which becomes more and more important in today’s data driven world. Therefore, if company wants to empathize and learn more about their customer they should, in addition to a classical persona description, add these three questions sets “Close to you, digital ecosystem, typical weekday”. Although the survey was easy to conduct, I experienced some problems with the first question “what are the things you cannot live without?”. Both participants were coming up with necessities like oxygen, water, food. It required a few iterations and a lot of moderation to move the participants from obvious things they need to survive. I would therefore change the question to: “What do you really love?”

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Building Empathy

Mario Adamcevic                                             Capture1

fitness addict, traveling the world and looking for inspiration, food and meme lover, since recently also a blogger, finishing grad school and embarking on professional life

 

Superpower:

I don’t panic ( its a combination of calm attitude and laziness to react); often do things last minutes
ability not to sleep for long when needed, on the other hand when on vacation I can sleep all the time
risk taker; improviser; don’t analyse in detail; usually everything turns out to be fine

truck Basic Demographics Capture2
Male, 25 year old, student,
Lifestyle/Activities

Capture3

Fitness, Water polo, drinking, classic romans, endless debates with friends about capitalism, welfare, cultural differences, business models

20160827_125108_006

Fun facts: Cartoon lover, (anime , si-fi) 

Dreams:  when asked what would I do with 1mn$ I still don´t know the answer. I will be either start a company or chill by the sea.

Passions: I love/I hate Love – sports, burgers, dogs, coffee, sea, summer, long walks with good company

Hate –  machinal and repetitive things, waiting, obnoxious people, unlucky situations that happen to 1 out of 1000 people (and it happens to me regularly )

Being inspired

I discovered my interest in design after reading the biography of Steve Jobs. I know it is such a cliché that a business student gets inspired by Steve Jobs and the way he revolutionized the word. I am also aware about the many bad sides of his leadership style and how he has often taken credits for the work of other people or a whole team of people. To be frank, I personally don’t idolize nor demonize Steve Jobs, however, it is a fact that he has set new standards in design of electronics goods, which was enough to make me have a different view on the products that surround us. In this assignment I will discuss why Steve Jobs made me think about design, how Apple´s design process relates to our design thinking process learned at class, and how can steps from Steve´s design thinking helps us in business environment.

  • Why Steve Jobs made me think about design?

While reading the biography of Steve jobs I was always annoyed and puzzled by his eye for detail and precision. We all know that he did not save money nor time in designing his products, but what not everybody knows is that he applied the same obsession for perfection to parts of Apple products that cannot be seen from the outside.  For instance, Steve insisted that also the inner parts of an Apple computer must be perfectly designed even though they would not be seen by the vast majority of Apple´s customers. As a business student who majored in accounting I was enraged. Such decisions seemed to me as unnecessary cost factors in both, time spent doing it and the resources needed. Furthermore, while readying the first few chapters of the book I was imagining Steve as a spoiled young man with too much money and obsession for details. However, then I realised, I was probably thinking as many corporate leaders of PC and electronics companies at that time: save money on design, allocate more resources to engineering, don’t use expensive materials, make sure the product can be produced quickly. Nobody ever looked at the product though the eyes of the customer, and that’s why Apple was able to achieve such a success. I started realizing why the design of Apple products was so appealing to people. It is because it was intuitive, simple and elegant. After investing a lot of thought whether the pareto principle or the Steve Jobs approach was the right one, I turned to the source of Steve´s inspiration for my answer, the Buddhist Zen Garden. The Zen garden made me realise that true beauty requires time and a lot of small steps that might not seem important when observed individually.

1-zen-garden-at-a-sunny-morning-ulrich-schadeThat is the moment when I started noticing how many things in my surroundings are useless, unfinished or badly designed e.g. at the time I had a Huawei phone with a button on the side that was completely unnecessary, and I still don’t know what was it used for. Simultaneously, I was more and more appreciating well designed objects because I was thinking that somebody invested time and effort in making it look beautiful and easy to use, in comparison to products that were manufactured by some professional bureaucrat.

  • How Steve´s design process relates to our class?

Similarly to the design thinking process we learned on class, the designers in Apple had their guidelines that made sure the customers would love the product. A major step was to create empathy, which was achieved by understanding the customers’ needs and feelings. The second step was focus on the important. They would eliminate all unimportant features in order to make the device easy to use. Often when I get annoyed of trying to figure out how a webpage or app works, I remember the importance of focus. Even though a phone is a complicated engineering masterpiece, the iPhone´s interface is designed so intuitively that even a very old and young people can find what they need in just a few klicks. This is mostly related to the devices produced while Steve was alive. Today Apple devices seem to place more emphasis on appearance at the expense of understandability and usage, however, that is a topic for another discussion. By placing themselves in the shoes of the customer designers discovered that their average customer cared about the appearance of the device and ease of use, and not thousands of technical specifications that nobody would use. imac-artificial-colors

 Friendliness became another step in designing their devices. Curved lines and bright colours added were the decisive factor for customers to choose an Apple product, in comparation to black, cubical and industrial devices other companies produced. These devices looked cold and distanced for the user. Steve was great in empathizing with a consumer before a product was created, which is a trait that many successful companies share for instance the same approach was used by Spotify when disrupting the music industry. 

  • How can steps from Steve´s design thinking helps us in business environment?

While I believe that many corporations have the creative capacities, many fail in focusing on what’s important. I have also been part of a meeting where all what we needed was a simple mobile application, however, the initial task has grown into something complex and unrecognisable. Different departments as purchasing, marketing, accounting, IT were adding requirements and protecting their own interests. The project manager decided to make everybody happy and took a bit of everything into the requirements document and the outcome was a disaster.

angrySituations like this can easily be solved by applying design thinking. Steve´s design approach would look at what the customer really needs and not the departments for their internal struggles and power games. Although it’s a good thing to get different ideas, the team has to stay focused on the ultimate goal, customer experience. This is something where Steve Jobs would not give in, and brutally wipe out the parts that disrupt the simplicity of the design or the users experience.

Finally, it can be said that Steve was a controversial person and that some of this practice are not considered as good management. However, it also clear that Steve left us a legacy of beautifully designed products that are build on the design thinking principles of empathy, focus and friendliness.

What is good design?

As the car is the most complex product of everyday use and its users have strong emotions related to the car own or want to own, car design is getting more and more important. At the beginning of the 20th century the functionality of the car was the focus of both car producers and customers, and aesthetic were regarded as optional and rather unimportant. Nowadays, people are constantly discussing aesthetics and design. Customers are more and more buying cars by simply selecting the design that suits them, with less focus on the technical specifications of the car. Therefore, if car producers want to sell their new products they must at least integrate functionality and aesthetics, if not place a greater focus on the design of the car, while respecting all the safety standards set by regulators. In this blog I will present a car that failed to integrate functionality and aesthetics as described above and is therefore often considered as one of the ugliest cars ever produced even though it seems to be very practical. Subsequently, I will present another car in the same price range, that targets the same customer segment, which, in my opinion, managed to integrate functionality and aesthetics very well. For both cars I will analyse the designers view and inspiration for the car, the exterior and interion design.

Fiat Multipla

Designers View:
Some love it, some hate it, and some laugh at it. The designer Robert Giolito explains that Fiat designers did not set out to deliberately create a vehicle that looks “goofy” or crazy. He believes, a design grows organically out of the technology employed in it and the purpose the car should serve. So, in this case functionality won over aesthetics. The imperative for this car was affordability and comfortably. The car was designed to hold six people and their luggage comfortably, all while not being bigger than usual cars. It also had to be flexible enough to accommodate alternative fuel sources and engines, including natural gas.

In regard to the design thinking process I believe the designers applied the same design thinking principles used in innovation management but have jumped to concussions too early. Although they emphasised with the customer and discovered the need for comfortability, space and affordability they should have tested out more different protypes to see whether the chosen design is accepted by the customer.

Exterior:

Multipla

The Fiat Multipla has the nickname “coffee pot” because of the distinctive separation of the bottom and top halves. While the car is definitely affordable and comfortable, it did not achieve it commercial success due to poor design. First, the overall shape which starts wide at the bottom, narrows at the beltline, then widens again at the top, is considered unclear, incomplete, separated not aerodynamic. Secondly, the positioning of the high beam lights, immediately below the cowling that also houses the windshield wipers, leaves many people confused. In my opinion the lights are redundant as well as the Fiat sign that is placed right below the front window. Furthermore, the wheels also look too small to the overall size of the car. Generally, the car looks as sum of separate parts with out a common vision.

Interior:

interior

The Multipla’s two rows of three seats each, with the middle seat set back between the outside seats, creates a “living room”, Giolito says. The Multipla is a car built to foster good relationships between its occupants. Admittedly, the living room concept is very practical and most people who bought it make happy reviews about the excess in space and comfort. However, the cockpit of the car looks crowded even though there is so much space left. In addition, the cockpit doesn’t look like one unit but rather an assembly of multiple different parts and buttons that appear above and below each other. Furthermore, the grey plastics of which the control panel an door are built, make the cockpit look cheap and industrial. In my opinion the control board should be simpler without so many buttons and holes in it, and the colours chosen should not be darker.

While it would be easy to present a strong contrast by pointing out cars as Porsche or BMW, it would not be completely comparable since those cars target different customers and are more expensive. Therefore, I have chosen a car that, similarly to Fiat Multipla, offers space, good fuel economy, safety, and convenience features, and requires the same budget.

Mazda CX-3

Designers View:
“Seeing one of our cars should invoke the feelings you get from appreciating a work of art!” According to Hazumi the head designer of Mazda, his team finds inspiration for designing Mazda cars in the elegance of motion in a living creature. The car should be more than a sum of functional parts. The cars should embody the dynamic beauty of life and suggest energy.

Similarly to the Design Thinking process used for innovations (Emphasize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, Implement), Mazda designers had a process in which they tried to place themselves in the driver position, define key customer problems, gain insight of customers’ needs and apply clear and simple design to the ideas they have made. This process had many iterations, where multiple prototypes were built and tested to see if they will really solve the problems identified in previous steps and give the drive a supreme driving feeling.

Exterior:
mazda ex
Mazda considers aesthetics as a crucial the factor that differentiates their car from other cars. The design evokes speed, grace and power, and finally create an irresistible urge to drive. While both Mazda and Fiat target the same customers with a low budget and want a large car for their family needs, the Mazda CX-3 offers all the functionalities a family needs but also adds a modern and appealing design to it. The Mazda CX-3 was designed using a minimalist approach. In comparation to Fiat Multipla the car looks as a one entity, very proportional, without redundant lights or plastic parts on the door. The shape of the car is clear, has a dynamic flow, natural curves and the colour used are very compatible and therefore give the car an agile but also elegant look.

Interior:

mazda interior

Similarly, to the exterior design, the concept of simplicity and minimalism was also applied to the interior design. The control panel is much simpler than in the Fiat and still offers easily accessible commands. From the curved contours of the instrument panel to the optimally placed hands, screens and screens, it all seems like a continuation of the driver’s body. Instead of using simple materials as plastics, the designers decided to use more elegant materials such as leather, which makes the car look much more comfortable than the Fiat Multipla even though Fiat Multipla has more space to offer.

Finally, even though I still think that Mazda CX-3 has a superior design over Fiat Multipla, we must be aware that such “beauty contests” are very subjective and as already the ancient Romans said “De gustibus non est disputandum” (there’s no accounting for taste) many drivers have different needs that might have been met by Fiat. Even Mr Giolito himself reflected once on his work and said “The shape tends to polarize opinions. You either like it or you don’t. “