002 – Stage 1: Empathy with Ming Lee

March 25, 2015 1:13 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

In the second episode of the Brunchworks Podcast me and Marie dig into the second part of the design process, which we call Empathy. We cover what it means and why it’s so important to know who you are designing for.

To help us unpack this process we interviewed Ming Lee, a user research lead with over 10 years of experience at companies like Nokia in Finland. Tune in for a great discussion on the second stage in the design process.

Down the show notes as a PDF for print: 

Episode 2 show notes


1. Traditional design process vs Human Centered Design

Less ego, more empathy.

2. Different types of innovation

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 13.56.23

3. Marketing-push, technology-pull

Innovation that is marketing-driven or technology-driven often leads to incremental novelty: new product styling, colors or packaging, more features…

We recommend a human-centered approach. It requires a deep understanding of the users need (both expressed and “silent”) and of it’s environment. Only that way new solutions can be created that create real value for customers.

4. User Focus

  • investigate data (google trends, reports, social media and forums)
  • go in the real world and observe, talk to, live the life of real people

5. Preparing user research

  • Define who are your users (beyond demographics), what kind of jobs they are trying to achieve, what pains to relieve, what gains are they expecting
  • Select concrete users to meet (either through personal contacts or through user research agency)
  • List potential “extreme users” or non-end users (for example: customer service people, coders…- they will not buy your product directly but will be in contact with it)
  • Prepare materials for interviews or observation: questions, recording equipment, wireframes…
  • set some time apart and go to meet your users

6. Some methods

  • 1 to1 interviews in the user’s “natural” environment. Importance of listening and open questions. Ask often Why. Ask the interviewee to think aloud and describe what they are doing.
  • User shadowing or a “day in the life of”. Spend a day with your user and follow him/her. It is important to pay attention to the stuff that doesn’t concern directly your product/service, the context of use. The aim is to understand how the user lives, what are their needs.
  • Document your findings: camera (or your phone), audio recording, notes. It is usually better to have one interviewer and one note-taker.
Empathy Map

Empathy Map

7. An exercise to get you started

The gift-giving Project by Stanford d_school




Guest Profile

Ming Lee-Profile photo-full resolution

Ming Lee

Ming is a Lead User Researcher and Designer, with experience ranging from startups to multinationals such as Nokia. A geek who puts people before technology. Ming loves to learn about different cultures and environments. He has lived in 5 countries across 3 continents and has spent extended periods of time in many more.


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