Ben Holliday


Here’s a thought. We talk a lot about “putting users at the heart of out thinking”. More than this, we need to find ways to put more heart into our thinking. We need empathy.

Empathy is a difficult concept to get hold of. Here’s the best way I’ve found to explain it.

Life through a lens

We’re all familiar with the idea of an optical lens. The type you would find in a pair of glasses.

A lens isn’t something we see. It’s something we see through. It determines the way we see, what we see, and what we don’t.

When working properly, a lens is invisible. You don’t realise you’re wearing it. An optician will tell you that people don’t realise they need glasses until they have them fitted and see the difference they make.

We all see life through a lens. This is shaped by everything from our childhood, education, parents, culture, and environment.

When designing something we subjectively interpret the world as we see it. The problem is we need to design for other people, not ourselves.

We have to find ways to see things as other people see or experience them. This is uncomfortable. It can make us wrong. It can change our opinions and attitudes towards others. This is empathy.

To solve complex problems we first have to reframe things. This involves widening, or narrowing our focus. Deliberately choosing to see things in a new way.

In order to act differently, we first have to see differently.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.