Mini-manifesto and empathy map

These questions posed by Western University in their problem of practice guide struck me as particularly powerful and relevant for learning design:

• Whose interests are being served?
• Whose needs are being met?
• Whose voices are being silenced, excluded, or denied?
• How do we know? (Western University, 2016)

The answer often depends on who you ask. That’s why design thinking’s emphasis on empathy is so important. To me, it’s a reminder of who should be at the top of the hierarchical flow chart: the learner. An effective PoP needs to ask the question: whose problem is it? It’s easy to lose focus when there are often other external influences: financial pressures, management goals or software vendors. I came up with this crude mini-manifesto to help me focus, and avoid biases. I coupled it with an even messier Empathy map to help me to understand the learner’s needs. If you can read it, you give you my highest praise. It’s goal is to capture Kouprie and Visser’s (2009) process of empathy that involves talking to the learners, physically being and observing their environment, and then reflecting on your own reactions, emotions and feelings to that process (p.445).


Brecher Cook, D., & Worsham, D. (2018, April). Let’s Build Something! (The Toolkit). A Rapid-Prototyping Instructional Design Workshop. Retrieved from

Kouprie, M., & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009). A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s. Journal of Engineering Design, 20(5), 437-448. DOI: 10.1080/09544820902875033

Western University (2016)Problems of Practice for an Organizational Improvement Plan. Retrieved from:

One thought on “Mini-manifesto and empathy map

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I appreciate the mini-manifesto you shared. I think we all share these values and try to incorporate these in our design and development of whatever products /services we are working on. It is often times easier just to make assumptions based on what we know, which clearly comes with our biases but if we want to develop and design something that really works- we need to go out there- immerse ourselves with what the users are experiencing in their world. Kouprie & Sleeswijk Visser (2009) articulated that empathic framework in the design is based on the principle that a designer immersed themselves into the life of the users, connects with them to understand their needs and perspectives, and then leave with a deeper understanding that helps with the ideation activities in finding solutions to the problem. Another thing that resonated with me is you asking the questions of “whose interests are being served and whose needs are being met?” These are critical questions at times forgotten to be asked because of many factors- time, budget, pressures ( all that you mentioned). Seelig (2013), reminded us of the power of reframing a problem by asking lots of questions. I will definitely keep in mind the questions you posed in this post as I continue my exploration of my design. By the way, I can read and understand your empathy map 🙂

    Kouprie, M., & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009). A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. Journal of Engineering Design, 20(5), 437-448, DOI:10.1080/09544820902875033
    Seelig, T. (2013, April 19). How reframing a problem unlocks innovation [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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