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How to Be a Compassionate Designer for Passionate Customers

by David Armano  |  
September 12, 2006
  |  12,434 views

As the quality of digital experience improves, the value of creating passionate users is becoming clear to brands wishing to thrive in the "experience economy." Provide an experience that is useful, usable, desirable, and differentiated... and you will create demand for your brand and delight your customers.

But if passionate users (or customers, or consumers) is the "WHAT" (the end result that we aspire to attain), then what about the "HOW"—the role that design plays in all of this? And I'm not just talking about visual design. As designers of digital experiences, what are we doing to develop compassion toward the users we are designing for?

OK, if you are going to get defensive while reading this article, now might be the right time. If you are an Interaction Designer, you probably feel that your whole existence is dedicated to meeting the wants and needs of users. If you are a Visual Designer, you might feel that you possess heightened sensitivities that allow you to be more "empathetic" while designing for your audience.

If you feel you are doing all you can to be a compassionate designer, then there is no need to continue reading. But if you think you can do more—read on.

I have this theory. My theory is that when we feel that we get really good at something, when we begin to consider ourselves "experts," that is when we are at risk of losing (or de-emphasizing) our compassion for the customer—the people we design for.


Think about it this way. It happens to doctors, the people who swear to uphold Hippocratic oaths, the same people who sometimes hold the key to life or death. When a surgeon gets really good at his or her craft, sometimes compassion takes a back seat to the otherwise honorable goal of saving lives. Sometimes, bedside manners become compromised in the process of moving on to the next patient. It's not intentional or out of malice—it just happens. All professions are vulnerable. When we get really good at something, we're tempted to think, "I've done this hundreds of times—I know what I'm doing."

We are tempted to think, "This is my area of expertise."

That's true of usability and interface design, visual design, motion design, copywriting, marketing—all of the above. Let's be honest with ourselves. How many times have we made a design decision that was in the interest of winning an award rather than winning over the customer? Or how many times have we included a deliverable because it validated our role as opposed to validating the life of a consumer?


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David Armano is a practitioner of Experience Design and a creative director for Digitas. He blogs about creativity, innovation and design at Logic + Emotion. David is also a contributor to FutureLab, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix  and Royal Academy of Art, The Hague

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  • by Edward Fri Mar 26, 2010 via web

    With more knowledge there should be a humility that there is still so much we don not know. Our definition of expert is flawed in a sense that it depends on years of experience that may sometimes be one sided.

  • by Edward Fri Mar 26, 2010 via web

    With more knowledge there should be a humility that there is still so much we don not know. Our definition of expert is flawed in a sense that it depends on years of experience that may sometimes be one sided.

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