SXSW 2019

Is the Age of Empathy Dead?


To have empathy is to understand and accept others; their wants, needs, desires and fears. Design Thinking's approach to human-centered problem solving has empathy at its core.
While it is commendable that Design Thinking is now the language of the boardroom and MBA classroom, empathy is increasingly becoming commoditized and “work on empathy” has become a box-ticking exercise. Couple this with recent political events demonstrating a shift away from empathic leadership, we are perhaps in danger of product and service design shifting away from genuine human-centeredness?
This talk will look at how we can reclaim the designer’s role in Design Thinking, how we can resist a ‘check the box’ mentality, and explore how we can work together to redefine and promote the importance of empathy.

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Additional Supporting Materials


  1. Understanding what empathy in design thinking looks like, why it is important, and the dangers of commoditizing it
  2. Learn how to redefine what success looks like in your company to promote empathy
  3. Explore how design communities around the world can work together to un-commoditize empathy


  • Martha Cotton, Group Design Director, Fjord


Martha Cotton, Group Design Director, Fjord

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Solo
  • Track: Design
  • Track 2
  • Level: Advanced

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