Brilliant design thinking tools for creativity #1 – user empathy map, your creative compass

by | May 21, 2014

User Empathy Map


Written by Claire Bridges, Founder Now Go Create updated July 2021

Have you come across the idea of a user empathy map before? It’s a brilliant tool from the school of design thinking that puts the consumer or user of your product or service at the heart of the thinking in order to develop ideas around it. This can be useful to collate insight, hunches and experience and act as your creative compass. I use it sometimes with clients before we brainstorm in order to really get under the skin of our consumer and work out what actions we want them to take – or what we want them to think and feel. Empathy is the first and most important stage of design thinking. It really helps to unpack data, real user insights and feedback.

You can do this at the start of your brainstorm session as a group (would take about 25 minutes) or in advance by yourself or with a small group. If you do it in a session have all the consumer insight handy. You can break a team of say 8 people into groups of 2 to work on each quadrant then come together.

How to do it

Divide a page into four. Populate the map by taking note of the following four traits of your user as you review your insights and any other info you have about your consumer. Use post-its and visuals if you like to bring it to life.

SAY: What are some quotes and defining words about your consumer e.g. confident
DO: What actions and behaviours do you want them to do as a result of your activity?
THINK: What might your consumer be thinking? What do you want them to think as a result of your activity?
FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling around the consumption moment?  What do you want them to feel?

You can also identify any pain/gain points for the consumer that you may be able to leverage. Find a pain point and work out how your brand, product or service can help. Try not to use jargon or marketing speak – use real language from real people (focus groups) etc or edit for jargon!

Free template Empathy Map download click here 

You can use the empathy map to generate ideas or have it there as a compass for all your creative activity. IDEO are the champions of Design Thinking – you can find out more about them here 

There’s another great design thinking tool – a point of view ad you can try here. Check out our other free creative tools and resources here.

If you would like to learn and practice creativity tools come and join us for one of our open Creative Ninja workshops. Find out more here

Or try our lockdown project – our new e-learning with 25 lessons to work through in your own time and build your creative toolkit.



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