Empathy for The Devil (or, why we do The Nudge).
Empathy is a powerful word, and a strong emotion. It’s the ability to understand what someone else might be thinking. It’s being able to understand how someone else might feel, or how they might respond to a given situation. It is rarely one’s first response; it requires a certain spark of selflessness.
And it’s fundamental to the way that we view design. To be able to do great work, we need to understand and empathise with our audiences, the users of the products and websites we design, and importantly, our clients.
We at Floate think that learning to better empathise with people who are not designers is a path to growth as designers. That’s why 18 months ago, we started what we think is an unusual design event – one where it’s not designers telling other designers about how annoying their clients are.
The Nudge is an on-stage conversation with someone who works on the client side; it’s a chance for clients to tell us what challenges they face, and for designers to find out what goes on behind closed doors. This way, we can get an understanding of how and why the decisions that affect our work are made.
The on-stage guests are never Floate clients. This isn’t a showcase for us. We do this because we want designers, including ourselves, to understand the context that we work in, and to start to empathise with what clients experience on their side of the project. In a sense, The Nudge is the antidote to the poisonous attitude that gave rise to Clients from Hell.
We’ve also expanded our reach a little and created a podcast where we talk to non-designers about their experiences working with designers, and listen to their views on subjects designers could know more about. We’ve spoken with Marketing Professors and sex workers, and a range of people in between. Even founders of startups. Through it all, we find we learn the most when we ask non-designers what they think designers ought to know about their world.
Tomorrow night (September 25), our guest is Sean Hall. Sean is the General Manager of Brand Marketing at Telstra –– he’s going to talk to us about what it’s like to work on a rebrand as large as Telstra’s, and the challenges that can arise when working with external design teams. We’re very grateful he can join us and hope you can come along. I’m buying the drinks.