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Tools: Empathy maps

empathy map squareWhat?

Empathy maps are a way of thinking through who the users of the service are, bringing together the thoughts, feelings and experiences of individuals visually. They are created by individuals in organisations who want to better understand their customers or users and their relationships to the organisation.


Empathy mapping helps to create a more holistic view of customers or users and considers what they hear, see, feel, think, say and do in their every day lives and the problems and opportunities. They help organisations and staff to consider what customers and users might want from a service or product, helping them to understand how services can meet their needs. This is vital to ensure effective and useful services.


An empathy map has eight segments:

  • thinking
  • feeling
  • seeing
  • saying
  • doing
  • hearing
  • pain
  • gain

Simply draw or print out empathy maps as per the example below and either work by yourself or with others to put yourselves in customers’/users’/clients’ shoes, filling in each segment based on their experiences. You can add/remove segments that do/don’t apply.

Empathy maps in Better by Design

At the beginning of the insight phase of Better by Design, we held workshops with each of the 15 organisations we are working with. These workshops were designed to generate understanding and information to help us co-create design briefs with each organisation. We introduced a number of service design tools to participants – rich pictures, empathy maps and user journey maps.

We created simple personas to help participants put themselves in the shoes of archetypes of their customers/users. We then asked them to map out these archetypes’ experiences onto the empathy maps. Some participants found the process difficult, feeling uneasy that they were making assumptions about their customers’/users’ lives. Others found it harder to put themselves in the shoes of some archetypes than others. But in general, participants found the process useful and insightful, noticing, amongst other things, the impact their organisations can have on individuals and the importance of listening to customers/users.

Some of the empathy maps from the workshops:

empathy map 4 empathy map 2 empathy map 3

To generate your own empathy map, download this empathy map template

Filed under: TOOLS

About the Author

Posted by

I am an Associate at the Young Foundation working on the Building Local Activism programme funded through the Big Lottery Fund's People Powered Change initiative.

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