An empirical study of the effectiveness of empathic experience design
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Engineers recognize the need for innovation in product design, and many methods are available for creating more innovative products and better satisfying customer needs. Empathic Experience Design (EED) is one such method. The EED method exposes the designer to empathic experiences, which are intended to help the designer empathize with customers who use the product under a variety of non-ideal conditions and then transfer that enhanced understanding to an ensuing concept generation activity. This thesis studies the effectiveness of the EED methodology when used in conjunction with three types of empathic experiences: sensory, physical, and cognitive. Experiments were conducted over the course of two years, in which students were asked to develop concepts for a next-generation alarm clock or litter collection device; the resulting concepts were analyzed to determine the originality and technical quality of each concept. The subject group concepts, which were developed after participating in empathic experiences, were compared with the control group concepts, which were developed without empathic experiences. The subject group concepts demonstrated significantly higher originality than the control group concepts, without measurable sacrifices in technical quality, as well as significant increases in innovative features related to user interactions. The method has been shown to be effective for enhancing innovation when the empathic experiences are aimed at sensory and kinematic priming activities that challenge a user’s sensory or physical capabilities.