Designer empathy in virtual reality: transforming the designer experience closer to the user

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Empathy is a key driver for designers to unlock their user’s perspective. However, its multi-dimensional nature can be detrimental to the design process; therefore, a structured approach is vital. The current emergence and capabilities of Virtual Reality (VR) technology have inspired this research to explore how designers can achieve the optimal level of empathy required to produce innovative design solutions. A qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews with design engineers working with industry was performed to analyse current challenges in empathic design and identify how VR can address such challenges. The study highlighted that communication and resource factors were the main barriers to designer empathy. In response to this finding, this research bridges the gap between the designer and the user through the digital transformation of the designer’s profession that provides enhanced value to human-centricity, social and ecological interactions. The outcome of this study entails the creation of a specification for a novel fully immersive virtual environment: Designer Empathy in VR that augments designers’ empathic skills and empowers the designer to achieve cognitive and affective empathy towards their user from multiple perspectives. This research is a platform for a future empirical study addressing the impact of digital empathy on creating user-centred and innovative design solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2023
EventIASDR 2023: Life-Changing Design - Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy
Duration: 9 Oct 202313 Oct 2023
Conference number: 2023


ConferenceIASDR 2023
Abbreviated titleIASDR 2023
Internet address


  • Empathic Design
  • XR Technology
  • human-centred design
  • design engineering


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