Let me start by saying, if you’ve never participated in an empathy workshop, I urge you to try one. I remember the first time I did (at an AIGA workshop), and it changed my life—not just as a designer, but as a human. You often hear the term, "you’ll never understand until you step into their shoes," but here, you actually get to do that in a positive environment that stimulates creativity.
In this particular workshop, we were tasked with redesigning the gift-giving and receiving experience, tailored to our partner’s needs. Talking to my peer, Karen, really allowed me to step into her shoes, see problems from her perspective, and think about solutions to issues I hadn’t even considered before—some of which we shared. During our discussions, it became clear that Karen’s biggest struggle was finding a way to ensure her gifts were meaningful and useful, without taking away the element of surprise.
I came up with a system that could be an app or website, where the gift-giver fills out a questionnaire about the recipient. The questions would gather information based on the recipient’s zodiac sign, hobbies, interests, job, likes, wants, and experiences they might have on their wish list. Based on this information, several “gift-kit” options would be generated. Each gift kit would include some DIY elements and an element of surprise. Karen could choose a gift-kit that allows her to make the gift or one where the recipient can assemble it themselves, ensuring the gift is personalized, meaningful, appreciated, and still surprising.
I struggled during the prototype phase and ended up creating a prototype of the gift-kit rather than the system that would generate the gift-kit. However, the great thing about this process is that you have opportunities to go back, get more feedback, and refine ideas to better benefit your partner.
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