Empathy should be your fuel for design.

Not Dribbble.

I like Dribbble. Its so full of brilliant imagery, illustration, great talent and beautiful design. I love ogling over some sexy UI or some clever negative space logo designs…

However I’m not a designer, well I wouldn’t class myself as one — I’m a design dabbler — to be honest, ‘dribble’ is more or less how I design… lines and colour appear, sometimes the dribble forms some sort of helpful shape.

Most of the time (ok all the time) at work I’ll leave it to the pro designers in the team, who can do things with Sketch, AI, Photoshop and even more importantly with a pencil and paper that I could only dream of.

It’s been said so many times. Dribbble is so often spanked full of images of iphones at random angles, showing off the beautiful gradient that you just copied (although you don’t realise it) from a powerpoint slide from 2001.
Even big brands aren’t inventing anything new ahem… Instagram…

Look, Dribbble is a good thing, a great tool. I’m not knocking it.
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying — inspiration is vital to the design process.

But. build your pretty picture with a problem to solve.

Understanding users can be delivered and explored in so many forms, face to face, desk research, usability tests, ethnography studies. UX sessions with groups of audiences, video, interviews, questionnaires etc

I gave a talk last year at an event where I spoke about understanding users. One of my examples of how this transcends all sectors was how Volvo approach the design of their cars — no, not the process, but the empathy to the user.

Volvo has always led the way in innovation, with products that continue to influence and shape the entire car industry. But that’s never been our motivation. You are. Every car, and every world first we introduce, is designed around you… to keep you safer on the road and more at ease behind the wheel. To bring extra excitement to every journey and improve your whole driving experience
~ Volvo XC60 brochure 2015

Whether you buy into that or not, thats their focus. People. You. Us. Not the prettiest car or the fastest — but the safest, most comfortable.

People are your go-to place. Not a pretty picture on a screen. Not someone else’s solution. Not something you saw as a ‘rebound shot’ to something using the same colour as your client’s brand. People. Their needs. Their feelings. Your feelings with them. Empathise. Connect. Then design.

Inspiration from Dribbble shots can help and it certainly has its place, but I’d suggest don’t even touch pencil to paper until you understand your client’s problem, the issue at hand, and what you’re trying to solve. Empathy plays a huge part here.

Empathy in design is not about facts and figures. Its about getting under the skin of the problem. Feeling it for yourself, connecting yourself to real users, and passionately wanting to change it for the better.

Ask questions. Engage with. Find out things. Discover ideas. Empathise.

Nick Babich wrote an excellent article on understanding how to be empathetic in your design process focussing on Human Centered Design (HCD) and exploring how you can engage more wholly with people to make insightful observations and surfaces various great tools and ideas to introduce or expand on your focus of empathy with users on a design project. Take a read.

Stop dribbling.

Start talking.

At Red Bullet we’re passionate about engaging and enjoyable experiences throughout the entire organisation from the office environment we work from, or the people we work for, as well as the products we make. We’ve built a culture where our team feel passionate about what we do and who we do it for. We’re always keen to hear from new people too. We’d love to share a Nespresso or a cold beer if you’re ever in town.

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