This paper promotes a user-centered design approach known as empathic design in which special emphasis is placed on observation of the affective nature of user-product relationships. Through empathic observation in real-world contexts, designers can come to understand end users’ emotional reactions to a product on multiple cognitive levels, including the customer’s true latent goals and desires. From these observations, there is an opportunity to better interpret how the design problem arises from actual user experiences. In this paper, we begin construction of a systematic framework for empathic design, and propose the development of a methodological toolbox for use within the scope of traditional design processes. Problem identification is reframed to aid in identification of hidden and latent customer needs through awareness of distinct levels of implicit and explicit cognitive processing and evaluation. This approach is meant to help designers better understand the root cause of user behavior and affective response to a product. Additionally, a number of types of supporting design tools are identified, and promising areas of future development are discussed.

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