Empathy by Design

Empathy by Design

Recently I rewatched the documentary (link)->Urbanized. I’ve seen it a couple of times.  It’s about how design affects how well an area works which I think is a practice in empathy.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s part of director Gary Hustwit’s design trilogy. Helvetica and Objectified are the other two-thirds of the trilogy. 

This past week, a topic at Hammersport Marketing has been empathy, and the importance of listening. After a couple of glasses of wine, I was thinking of sending the founder of HammerSport, a link to Urbanized. I realized sending it, might seem like a tangent, with nothing to do with what we were talking about. Instead, I decided to write a longer piece that he and others can read. 

It is a design trilogy.

Urbanized shows how design makes urban areas work well, and it shows examples of what doesn’t work. The film’s premise is design-focused.

Many people might not be aware of how good design results from relationships. The relationships used in design are often thought of as being purely aesthetic. However, function and creating an environment where people can live comfortably and harmoniously is what makes the world work. Being aware of economic, cultural, recreational, and domestic needs along with social contracts and norms is important. These are the things that make up the fabric of different cities factors in on design. 

I was talking to someone this morning about this trilogy. During it, I mentioned Helvetica. She replied, “there’s a documentary about a font? That doesn’t sound very interesting.” 

I said it’s about much more. It’s about relationships. These films articulate what most people don’t feel a need to articulate. When they hear someone else do it well, they realize the importance of what they walk by and likely take for granted. I love this quote from the Chicago Tribune about Helvetica.

“The real achievement of the film is the way it sharpens your eye in general and makes connections between form and content, and between art and life.” – Chicago Tribune

Essentially good design comes from listening, and most any type of good relationship is based on listening and being aware of others’ needs, and to paraphrase Riley, not assuming what other people need.

Watch these films because they are interesting, entertaining, and not dryly examining these subjects in the way a textbook would. 

In a way, they hit on what you might already know but sometimes forget. Our voices and needs are important, and attainable if we listen to each other.

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