Future of Design Is Compassion
Concepts such as compassion and empathy, especially in the business and professional realm, are often associated with weakness. In our culture, kindness and compassion are commonly viewed as incompatible with and even detrimental to strong and effective leadership, an attitude that trickles down and defines the tone of businesses and organizations. If the idea of factoring in concepts like positive feelings and emotional well-being into product design and management decisions sound contradictory, the results of this approach might surprise you.
Wharton professor Adam Grant has studied how traits such as compassion, kindness, altruism, and empathy affect leadership and professional performance for high achievers (a group he refers to as givers). Not surprisingly, possessing qualities that make people likable also helps make them influential. So how does this relate to design? It all comes down to influence and trust.
Compassion and Empathy Breed Trust
How to Design for Compassion
Stress reduction: Prioritize physical, psychological and social well-being over negative emotions or possible stress triggers.
Perceived safety: Improve the user’s sense of emotional well-being and safety by designing an experience that enhances and prioritizes positive emotions.
Reduce danger: What world does the user live in and how can your design help him/her safely navigate it? For example, an app designed to donate money to a homeless person is useful, but taking it a step further to supply information that will help people get the services they need in their immediate vicinity — food, clothes, shelter, medical care, volunteer services — can help save lives.
Enhance user dignity and empowerment: This one is easy. Make people feel good about themselves.
Compassionate Design in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Rather than attempting to program machines with human values like ethics and compassion, designers will need to think strategically and consider potential negative outcomes when programming AI applications. Machine learning algorithms are picking up long-standing race and gender biases concealed within the language patterns. We will need to learn to eliminate inappropriate stereotypes and design unbiased, intuitive and smart AI programs.
Compassionate Design Checklist
Choosing positive emotions over negative (humor, playfulness and hope vs. fear, anger and hatred)
Motivation to do good
Dedication to solving a problem and enhancing the user’s quality of life goes a long way. As personal technology and machine learning become more and more sophisticated, taking a broader view of the design process to account for the human factor can go a long way.
Chief Creative Officer