New In Town: Empathic Design

Following is an excerpt from “New In Town: Empathic Design,” an article published in Issue No. 469 of The Journal of the London Society by Milly Derbyshire, Associate Strategist at Redscout.

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Even in a city steeped in design history, methods are evolving that reconceive the approach to making. Originating in America, so-called "empathic" design is gaining momentum [in the United Kingdom], and changing the way companies, from start-ups to global corporations, think - not only about how they innovate, but how they relate to consumers. 

Empathic design is a way of approaching design that takes humans as its starting point, and creates solutions in response to their needs. At its core is the ability to build empathy with an individual or group of people. At its best it has the power to change the way people think, or even act. 

This approach is affecting design in London, with more and more empathic design firms setting up in Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. Many, such as SmartDesign, IDEO and Redscout, began in the U.S., and have made London their second home. They are breaking ground with innovations for today's world. Through understanding the motivations of consumers, brands are producing products intended to make life more comfortable, interesting and enjoyable. 

For Example: Redscout has worked closely with Harry's, a razor business that has embraced empathic design. Its subscription service for shaving broke into a market dominated by brands competing to provide the most technologically advanced razor, with features such as more blades, a closer shave, and a professional finish. Harry's understood that a key point about razors was not using them, but buying and replacing them. With a pared­ back but high-quality razor, and replacement ­head delivery as often as users need, Harry's has undercut its competition while creating a business model that fits users' lives. 

The London Society is for those who love London. It was founded in 1912 by a group of eminent Londoners to bring people together to debate key issues about the future of the capital - housing, roads, railways, the channel tunnel, bridges and even airports. Now over 100 years old, its journal is published twice a year. It looks at what is happening in contemporary London with features on interesting contributions to the development of the city.