Empathy Map Co-Creation

Empathy maps are a collaborative tool used to build a holistic understanding of what a certain person (or "user") thinks, feels, sees etc.

Photo of Claire Partlow
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Empathy maps are a collaborative tool used to build a holistic understanding of what a certain person (or "user") thinks, feels, sees, hears, says and does.

After a specific person, or user group is chosen to be the subject of the empathy map, two different colors of sticky notes are used to differentiate "happy points" from "pain points". The class (or group of researchers) then collaborates to populate the different areas of the map based on what that user experiences. (The example I used in class was a hypothetical person named "Sam" that represents "high school students who are beginning to apply to colleges") NOTE: It's okay if it seems like a certain sticky note could be in two or more sections of the map, it's subjective.

After the map is fully populated, the class should then read all of the points out loud and look for similar themes or patterns. These patterns and themes should be written down. This allows the team to humanize the feelings and traits of a person or user group they may not be familiar with, therefore gaining empathy. 

Empathy Maps are a valuable tool for design researchers as well. They allow us to sort through data (and quotes from interviews) and build a persona, delving into the hearts and minds of the users we are designing for.


Claire Partlow M.F.A.



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Photo of Megan McMahon

Hi Claire! would love to see how you structure this for your class--how much time do you need for this project? What are the questions you are using to inspire the observations? Could you put this in a google doc to share out so that others could use it? I can share out a template we have for building out the ideas if you are interested!

Photo of Erin Quinn

I've done empathy maps before, too, and they've been so helpful.

So how can we take the idea of an empathy map and apply it to help kids empathize with one another?Where do you think the point of differentiation might be for your idea? How does it differ from the dschool's version of an empathy map? https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/3d994/empathy_map.html

Photo of Michael Schurr

Clara, great idea. I've used empathy maps with my students before. It's a wonderfully visual way for students to "see" empathy. Have you seen Linkers ? Seems like you might be able to build together. Check it out!

Photo of Kengo Yamada

Claire Partlow I agree with everyone else. This is a great idea!

Photo of Nkomo Morris

I really like this idea because it is portable and cheap and doesn't require special equipment. You can do it with stickies, with tape and paper, with a wiki, or whatever. I would love to add aspects of this idea to mine, if that is okay. Would you be willing to be on my team so I can add your idea to mine?

Photo of Rebecca Recco

This is super cool!

Photo of Emma Scripps

This is really neat, Claire! It makes me think it could be something that's a classroom bulletin that gets added to overtime. What sorts of prompts have you used to support students and/or teachers to come up with different items that would fit in one of these maps?