Cultivating Creativity through Empathizing:

An Empathy FOCUSed framework in DESIGN studio teaching
Jeff Feng
University of Houston, USA


Abstract: Empathy development has been recognized, discussed and implemented in design practice for more than 20 years. Although empathy is also addressed in design education, the understanding of its potential impact on students’ creativity and the depth of its application are limited. Empathy development is often seen as a part of the early stage of a project research, but not a main thread weaving through the whole design process, nor as the main mechanism contributing to students’ creative performance. A strategic planning process for empathy building in project driven studio teaching is also rarely elaborated. Through a brief review of how empathic research has evolved in design, this paper proposes an empathy focused framework in a design studio teaching context. A case study was described and analyzed to demonstrate the effectiveness of such a framework in a studio to cultivate students’ creativity.

Keywords: empathy, creativity, empathic design


Empathy is an ability to sense, experience, understand, and share the feelings of others. Empathy was first recognized as an important subject in psychology in the late nineteenth century, developed in the twentieth century (Kouprie, & Visser, 2009). Empathy is generally considered and studied in two types in psychology: cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Cognitive empathy is about the ability to recognize and understand other people’s feeling. Emotional empathy is about the ability to ( more)