Empathy in a Technology-Driven Design Process: Designing for users without a voice of their own

Elina Ilen, Camilla Groth, Markus Ahola, Kirsi Niinimäki


Smart textiles are often developed in sports- oriented contexts through technology-driven processes. In the medical context, practitioners themselves also invent and develop technological aids in response to needs that emerge in practice. In these cases, novel technology may be the first driver for design to secure functionality and reliability, but our study shows that these processes benefit from human-centric and empathic design approaches. The project develops smart textiles for infants with medical adversities, such as preterm birth, neonatal infections, or birth asphyxia, collaboratively with medical researchers. Our pilot research illuminates the need to use the interest group’s empathic understanding as a starting point for design, as the user of the garments does not yet have a voice of their own. In this paper, we develop the argument for empathic design in a technology-driven design process in the medical context.

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