USC Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism

Expanding the Skill Set of Empathy and Design With Data

Below you'll find an article published by McKingsey & Company's Digital Blog on the importance of empathy-driven design especially when when designing for AI. 

During the “Dirty Little Liars: Why Are There Product Failures?” panel at SXSW, McKinsey partner Mahin Samadani explained that providing impact in the new tech landscape requires us to think empathetically while also scaling insights. Machine learning can augment the design process to help us combine data (the fuel) with empathy (the spark).

Samadani explained a successful approach to gaining insights and scaling empathy-driven design: “With quantified experience design (QED), we explore things from a qualitative standpoint; then, using machine learning, we scale this and identify the opportunities and impact. One doesn’t come before the other: it’s a back and forth, a dialogue. You can get more advanced as the organization gains capabilities, but start with a survey — the original machine learning.”

Expanding on this idea, John Maeda, global head of computational design and inclusion at Auttomatic, underlined the importance of the designer. He stated that designers must push companies to think beyond using AI and data to drive their decisions. Maeda explained that designers today are uniquely positioned to do this because they use empathy, design thinking, and AI (i.e., computational design) to solve important problems.

McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin echoed this idea in asserting that today’s most innovative businesses also need to rethink what design actually is. “This complex discipline does itself a disservice to call itself just “design,’ which signals only service-level solutions. Perhaps we’ll start to see new ways of describing these multifaceted and interconnected capabilities.”

As Sarrazin explained in “Good design is good business,” a talk between himself and Maeda, design has evolved and taken on different meanings and definitions. And its role and value have expanded to the boardroom by creating impact “at the top.” That means asking the most important questions of businesses: How does design work in your business? How is it not just part of the product journey creation but also integrated into the DNA of the company? How should data drive decisions within the organization?