Empathy Map: Setting a common ground for multiple UX designers

Imagine having a room full of UX designers coming from different expertise – planning to find a solution and answer for a burning problem. What methods that can bring them together into one page?

For human-centred-design practitioner, empathy is the first and foremost element that should be determined before going to other layers of process. As the principle of human-centred design gives us the safety net to not produce a top-down solution, empathising with the user we design the solution for will avoid product failure. Then is there any tool to set a common ground for multiple designers working on one project? In this article, we will examine a tool named Empathy Map which used as a guideline to visually collaborate with our ‘empathy findings’. Which not only help us to understand our user but also to help our colleagues to understand their needs.  

What is Empathy Map?

Working on a project with several designers, we often face difficulties sharing our observation-based findings as each designer may have different background, biases, and perspective on seeing a problem. In design thinking, we are required to see our problems based on using our empathy. As empathy is an element that cannot be quantified and hard to measure, an Empathy Map sets a common ground for different views into a visual as an aid in decision making.

How it Works

Empathy Map first popularised by Dave Gray if XPLANE’s as one of the methods for understanding audiences, including users, customers, and other players in any business ecosystem. It consists of 7 quadrants, with the user or persona in the middle. The best practice of filling this map is not by chronological order or sequential, but fill it as a whole depending on the flow of the observed activity.

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Download Empathy Map Canvas here:


The simplest way to fill up the quadrant is by asking questions you would want to ask them, or a situation where you would like to understand. Information can be gathered from interviews, role-play, and structured observations. Empathy maps should not be filled in chronological or sequential, each quadrant will be filled along with the observation process

GOAL – these quadrants should be filled prior taking notes for other quadrants. These will be used as a guideline for what our targeted intention is.

What do they HEAR? – we can take notes on what others say to them, what they are hearing from friends, what they are hearing from colleagues.

What do they DO? – what behaviour we have observed, what action they do in response to the problem or situation we give.

What do they SEE? – what they are watching and reading, what they see in their immediate environment.

What do they SAY? – it contains what the user says out loud in a response to the problem they face.

What do they FEEL? – collect user’s emotional state, their PAIN (fears and anxiety) and GAIN (wants, needs, hopes, and dreams). Use adjectives to describe the feeling.

Why it works?

Empathic understanding will help designers to set aside their assumptions and validate results gathered from the data collection. However, there are situations where empathy is very depending on people’s personal biases and in this case, Empathy Map comes to rescue and set the common ground for everybody to help remove biases. This activity will also help us to quickly discover the flaws in our product. Having people’s intention, needs, and behaviour mapped will help us, designer, to examine the real problem which will guide us towards meaningful innovation.

Ready to implement this tool in your project? Download the Empathy Map Canvas here:


This blog is written as a result of Monica’s journey at Social and Behaviour Change Communication Summit 2018 in Bali. She attended the Skill and Building workshop on Empathy Mapping hosted by South Africa-based NGO praekelt.org


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Putu Monica Christy

Monica is Program Manager for Tulodo. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and behavior change in low-income communities. If she is not glued to her laptop, she enjoys solo-travelling and taking a nap at the park.

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