hello empathy is the outcome of a 1-year research to enhance the quality of spatial design for persons with autism. Grounded on the belief that with compassion and empathy, we are one step closer in being able to understand others better, we came up with 5 Heart Ways as a research and design framework. This research is part of Good Design Research Grant, supported by Design Singapore Council.
5 Heart Ways framework allows us to exercise empathy, uncover others' real needs and make meaningful decisions during a design process.
Download our research pdf here:
*Under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike - you are free to share and adapt the contents in the workbook in any medium or format but provide appropriate credit
5 Heart Ways
1. Respect & Dignity
It is necessary to acknowledge the diverse needs of various individuals before starting any engagement, be it a simple conversation or a larger project. After all, we all wish to be treated with dignity and respect. This means listening and valuing what they have to say and can go beyond interpersonal conversations to other situations in the social space. It means we need to learn and avoid stereotypes and judgements.
Our research acknowledges that Autism is a non-linear spectrum. Every person with autism is unique and has different needs. We started by learning how to address different individuals based on their preference and customising each conversation to suit their needs.
By having a common understanding and mutual respect, we can move on to the next step to understand. A holistic understanding can be being with them, understanding and interacting with them. It is also taking the time to find out the needs before offering a solution at hand. In a simple conversation, this step involves peeling of layers to find out what is beneath the surface of what is understood at first.
To deepen our understanding, we decided to engage a larger community including designers, the autism community, and the general public. Through the activities below, we were able to gather an extensive amount of information needed for our research.
with designers, educators, social service agencies, and caregivers
Purposeful play workshops
with students from Spectra Secondary School
with designers, educators, social service agencies and caregivers
at autism schools and homes
Upon better understanding through gathering of data, the next step is to find patterns and connect the findings. This way, we can find out the nuances behind the user needs in order to propose solutions that are effective. For our research, we used Empathy Mapping to map out our findings in the following categories: see, hear, think, do, feel, say, pains, gains. There are also other methods and frameworks and you should choose what works best for your situation.
After connecting each of the findings to gather insights, internalise the information and propose possible solutions.
One key insight gathered during this research is that during the consideration of quality of spatial design, apart from Physical needs, Emotional and Mental needs are equally important as well.
5. Find Opportunities
For our research, we saw the opportunity to deepen understanding and awareness for autism through a purposeful card game. Thus, we went beyond the research to further develop hello empathy. We hope that through this conversation game, more people will be aware and better understand autism and in their own capacity contribute to the community.
In short: go beyond the existing project and solution, ask "what if" questions for more possibilities and opportunities to make an impact. Here are some suggested steps below to deepen your empathy:
Supported by DesignSingapore Council
This research would not be possible without the support of Good Design Research Grant from DesignSingapore Council, volunteer designers, social agencies, persons with autism and their caregivers. We would also like to specially thank Spectra Secondary School and St Andrew's Autism Centre for the support given throughout this research.