Empathy map and applied to go the toilet

n the lesson of design thinking, we wanted to experiment the map of empathy which is to help in understanding the target person “the customer”. The map of empathy has critical role at the beginning of the design process of any product. It provides a better user experience for the products and services. This is as empathy has a critical role in the human-centered design. In this type of exercises, service providers can identify things which are unknown about customers. Thereafter, producers can fill potential gaps. Empathy map inform service providers about people to be empathised with, what they would see, say, do, hear and feel.

What is an Empathy Map?

To practice the maps of empathy in this exercise, we wanted to analysis the use of the toilet by costumers with different needs. We were divided into a team of three: blind, mute and robot. The mute person was to warn others for any hazards in the surrounding area as he is the only one who could see. The robot was able make actions when required and following the instructions of the blind person who was able to speak. The blind person was to sense objects around and describe his feelings, but not by eye seeing.

The needs of the blind person were essentially to be able to reach the bathroom easily with less objects as obstacles on the way. The bind person was not able to see the mirrors and the flooring, but he needed to feel that the floor was dry and not slippery. He wanted to have the flush bottom and toilet rolls near to the toilet seat. Also, they wanted to have the sink close to the toilet seat. They needed a relatively good space to wait inside the bathroom. He wanted the dryer machine to be accessible not far from the sink. They were able to hear any noise. The mute person was not able to ask for things needed in the bathroom, so he needed to see everything in a visible place to avoid asking. The robotic person was much interested in having the toiletries in accessible places, with a good space which enabling him to move around. Both blind and mute people needed good smell during and after the usage of the toilet. They were able to hear talking, laughing, running water, hand dry, so the noise level is important for them but not for the robotic person.

The three people needed good space to move and also a dry shelf away from the sink, but it should be reachable by the blind person. Additionally, the three people needed a clean and hygienic place.

Following this exercise, we draw our findings on paper taking the shape of the empathy map below. We presented our findings to other groups. We concluded that every customer has different experiences and needs. The best way to understand these needs from the costumer perspectives and think about concerns and needs.

Map of Empathy is an essential tool during the product development process because it allows us to experience what our customers could feel when dealing with our product to be. We can also benefit from others feedback to achieve greater success.

“Engaging with people directly reveals a tremendous amount about the way they think and the values they hold. Sometimes these thoughts and values are not obvious to the people who hold them. A deep engagement can surprise both the designer and the designee by the unanticipated insights that are different from what they actually do – are strong indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the way the world is.”

Theory of design thinking in the shoe

“To create meaningful innovations, you need to know your costumers.”

In this project, we used the theory of “Design Thinking” to design a shoe product. This theory has five principles which are: empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test. In this blog, I will explain how everyone of these principles was used.

Empathy is the centrepiece of a human-centred design process. It is expected that people who have things close to their heart, they like to talk about them. Therefore, to explore this empathy, my colleagues and I had walked around the campus and tried to talk to people wearing shoes of unique shapes. We wanted to know the if there were any reasons for choosing those shapes. Our questions explored the reasons for choosing that pair of shoes, place of purchasing, their advantages, and whether it was purchased online or in the store.

The aim of these questions was to understand the reason behind the shoe choice. In fact, this was to explore if people would’ve had any empathy towards their shoes.

The second principle for the Design Thinking is to define a meaningful and actionable problem statement. After interviewing many people and collecting their answers, these responses were discussed within our group. The main point of the discussion was on “the best features in people’s shoes”. One of the interviewees whose answers most attracted our attention was “Jen”.  Jen is a student from the Philippines. She was wearing a white pair of trainers which looks normal at the first instance. But when I asked her about a few letters seen on the back of the trainers, it was interesting to know that she managed to have the name of her boyfriend written. This was surprising for me as it is a strange way to show love for somebody.

The third factor of the Design thinking theory is Ideate, which means to concentrate on the generating ideas backing the product. During our group discussion, we talked about the feeling associated with certain features of the new design for the trainers. Therefore, we decided to make shoes that express the feelings of the person who is wearing them. This is by including faces, dates and letters which have personal meaning. We tried to follow the advice that in this type of design of a new product, we need to think by hand (not by head as widely known).

After then, we designed the prototype which is the iterative generation of artefacts intended to answer questions that get you closer to the final product.After long discussion within our team about the possibilities, ideas and opinions, we built a prototype of shoes called (expressive shoes). It expresses the state of the person. We made a few shoes in different colours and then worked on several expressive aspects that reflect the person’s conditions, names and dates.

Finally, we had to test our products which is a chance to refine them and make them better. To do so, we introduced our products with some explanation to other colleagues in the class. Overall, most of the opinions received were supported for our approach and for the product itself. Through this exercise, I learned how we could put the theory of “Design Thinking” into practice to get an attractive product. It made me appreciate the team work to obtain abetter outcome.

I believed in saying, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal” Albert Einstein.


Last month, I started studying a Master of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University, London. One of the modules I chose to attend is “Design Thinking for Start-ups”. As part of this course, my first attendance was with the University at “A Hackathon with Surrey County Council”. I engaged with a number of my colleagues in designing a small project. Its main aim was to support students who come to study in the UK. It is well known that many of the newcomer’s struggle to adapt to life in a new place, especially when it is such a great and big city like London. Our partner in this project was Surry City Council. Therefore, we aimed for producing a list of tips and ideas to help those students understanding the new society values and culture of Surry. 

During this experience, we exchanged views and learned from those who have more experience in this field. While we were meeting on our project in the Council, we met a group of Surrey. It was remarkable that they organised many interesting events about integration. Most projects had benefits with people but learning from them about the challenges of new arrivals is crucial. (I think the new access may be in a similar situation for refugees at some points.) The staff of the Surrey Council had ideas and gave us some valuable advice on our project.

This small project has made me better appreciate the “Teamwork”. During the planning and executing of this project, I was teaming up with five of my colleagues. I learned many new ideas from everyone, and I hope I was able to benefit them from my experiences. Through dialogue among us, we were able to plan our project and came up with many innovative ideas. The team members were from different cultures. This had enriched our discussions and made the suggestions for our project suitable for students from different backgrounds. This experience has made me realise that working in a team saves time and energy of the members.

Furthermore, it makes the road to achieve the aim more enjoyable compared to working alone. I strongly believe that teamwork spirit is a factor that I will ensure to have as a part of all my future management experiences. To sum up, I will keep looking for new challenges but simultaneously, I will ensure having inspiring teammates.  


I am Elham from Saudi Arabia.I studied a Bachelor of Arts and then worked in the management sector for about seven years. I love challenges, and I find them the best way to make me a better informed person. At the same time, I like to help people who have difficulties. While I am happy to help them overcome their problems, I learn from these challenges good lessons for me.

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