Aug 19, 2011
Zelda Harrison

XCD interviews… Michael Wolff Part 2: Design + Empathy

Earlier in the year, XCD caught up with Designer Michael Wolff, the founding partner of Wolff Olins along with advertising executive Wally Olins. Visit our previous post for a viewing of the XCD interview with Michael Wolff.

“I think empathy is a crucial quality for a successful designer. It’s the most effective quality with which to conquer the ego. Ego is the designer’s enemy because it diminishes our ability to be in other’s shoes – to surrender. I’m surprised how little time designers spend in other’s shoes and how scant their understanding of the nature of ‘liking’ is. We know we like and what those we admire like, but we know little of why most people like what they like.”

“Thinking we’re right or that we have supreme aesthetic judgement isn’t helpful. Often what we call good design defaults into what we agree is good. But it’s often a good that we’ve invented as a design community – a kind of private world, or agreement system, about what is good. It means we become elitists who know a great deal about very little and very little about a great deal. Empathy is another word for being willing to be warm and open to others , and to listen and respect their points of view about what they like. That doesn’t mean suppressing our own judgement or creativity, it just means opening ourselves up and being enriched by a more eclectic view of the richness and diversity of what’s possible.”

XCD thanks Design Indaba for making this interview possible.


Leave a comment