The term “empathy” can be used to explain and describe a broad spectrum of experiences. “Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”¹

“Design empathy is an approach that draws upon people’s real-world experiences to address modern challenges. When companies allow a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs to inspire them, and transform their work, their teams, and even their organization at large, they unlock the creative capacity for innovation.”²

The way that especially Interior Designers need to get the best from the feedback that the clients supply will have to include, in a way, some essence of empathic research. It is imperative that we start utilizing the boundless gems of emotions that customers exert without any preconceived choice when engaging with spaces. “Empathy is second nature to us, so much so that anyone devoid of it strikes us as dangerous or mentally ill.”¹

Empathy can be seen as a powerful unseen force that exists in all cultures. Some research has also shown that when people are empathetic, they can enhance their ability to receive and process information.² This follows with the age old saying that you first have to walk a mile in a man’s shoes to really understand how he works and thinks. This is very true when it is applied to the spaces that we engage with. Being in a space that can heighten your emotional response creates the opportunity for a higher sensory absorption and in turn fused the experience of the space with the physical attributes of the space. In essence, the observer and the spaces becomes one experience.

It then stands to reason that we should then take time to understand the emotions of our clients and to spend more time unlocking this creative tool. We are designing and creating spaces that need to speak to the end user, where the space influences and changes the user as well as the other way round.

In our industry this can help to put things into context and make informed decisions relating to the client’s wants and needs. “Research also shows that we are more helpful and generous after an empathic encounter.”³ Put all of these together and empathetic behavior can motivates us to solve design challenges that exist in our industry and personal environments, making sure that the spaces we create are not just aesthetically pleasing but also memorable and an extension of self.


[1] De Waal, F. (2005). The Evolution of Empathy. Found at>

[2] Battarbee, K., Suri, J. F., Howard, S. G. (1996). Empathy on the Edge: Scaling and Sustaining a Human-Centered Approach in the Evolving Practice of Design. IDEO

[3] Decety, J., Ickes, W. (2011). The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. MIT Press.