In recent years, designers have been using various methodologies, such as user-centered design, human-centered design, ethnographic research, as well as persuasive design in an attempt to create emotional connections with their audiences. All these design methodologies lead to better communication between designers and audiences. This deeper level of understanding has created different outcomes. There have been rare altruistic approaches when designers utilize empathic design to draw attention to important issues such as war, discrimination, hunger, and natural disasters. However, more often than not designers have abused empathy to sell a product or a service. Abusing empathy leads to manipulating the audience’s emotions rather than being genuine with them. Hence the recent popularity of empathy in design has consumerist and manipulative intentions behind it instead of altruistic intentions which would aim to promote genuine human connections.
This thesis will analyze the two extreme motives of using empathy in design: altruistic motives and consumerist motives. Through the investigation of written articles and analysis of empathic design work, the thesis will suggest using transparency and honesty as part of the design process will help designers reclaim empathy through their practice.