Fostering a sense of “visual empathy”

Visuals are powerful tools for compelling teammates to recognize what’s important and useful, from sketches to mockups to prototypes. In this vein of thought, also valuable are quite simply giant posters of collages of graphical interfaces—literally big enough for a whole wall, to dramatically amplify both the examples of current state of affairs, as well as shape a fantasy of aspirations for the targeted customer market. Indeed, the power of visual volume (number of images) and scale (measured in feet) fosters a kind of “visual empathy”. For example, in trying to develop a novel visual design language for an enterprise IT app, it’s useful to feel out the current state of enterprise apps, that IT Admins inhabit. What kind of visuals (images, colors, type, diagrams, tables, etc.) do they immerse themselves with, surround themselves daily, and interact with frequently? This helps understand the kind of conventions and realities that define their world view, that shapes expectations and perceptions…as drawn from Bergson’s “assumptive worlds”. It’s the world that is normal and routine.

Likewise, it’s useful to shape a vision of what’s to come, a visual collage of aspirations that elevate the quality of information display and interactive potential. What kinds of colors, shapes, textures, atmospheres might suggest an improvement of that conventional state of affairs? Again, blowing up the collage to large-scale magnifies quite literally the sense of “living in this new world”, immersive and absorptive. Then step back and assess what qualities make for an improved sense of lifestyle, emotion, and satisfaction overall for the customer.

It may be obvious, but of course having these immersive collages juxtaposed further strengthens the sense of empathizing for that world that is, and what might come to be. The diligent designer will ascertain critical threads of progress and themes for defining principles and guidelines, all with a mindful sense of how the customer may strive to feel.

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