The Dangers of Empathy event signifies a coming of age for human-centred design practice, as we acknowledge the limitations of our skills set and open up a space for discussion and learning. We are a group of designers and researchers who are interested in creating new postures and mindsets in design practice; with the aim of helping our design community (and ourselves) continue to do challenging work without burning out.
With so many designers now responding to the call to action to use their skills to make change in the world, we are finding ourselves in surprising contexts: financial services, government, and social sectors. These are challenging, new situations that designers have rarely been trained for.
Empathy is a key tool in designing for change; however, little is spoken of the emotional labour required to practice it. Whether that empathy takes place in a corporate context where it is counter-cultural to business-as-usual, or in a social context where it can lead to vicarious trauma, designers are ill-equipped to manage the emotional consequences of this kind of work.
Design has many methods but few for dealing with traumatic situations. In this event series, we look to other disciplines that operate in taxing emotional spaces such as social work, yoga for mental health, and psychology, to discover how we can borrow and adapt practical lessons for building resilience in everyday practice.
This panel discussion frames the problem-space, with talks from practicing designers and researchers who share their experiences. It then offers some valuable perspectives, frameworks and insights from people working in social fields outside of design.