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Empathy Interview

A protocol for conducting an interview to develop a better understanding of a potential issue or problem that could be processed through design thinking.

This Gets You to concentrate on your role in the interview, and allows for better sharing, listening and recording.

Keep in Mind it is important to stay in your role as interviewer, interviewee, or recorder. Listen closely to what is said, pay attention to body language, and use follow up questions to build a better understanding of the issue. 


Risk Taking

Be Fully Present

Creative Commons

Learn from Failure


Make | Create | Do

Embrace Ambiguity

Assume a Beginners Mindset


Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

A) Interview Roles:
Interviewer– responsible for managing the flow of the conversation and using questions to learn more about the topic. Listening and asking good questions is critical to the success of the interview.
Interviewee– responsible for sharing as much as they are comfortable with. Sharing and helping the interviewer by responding with thorough answers.
Recorder– responsible for capturing the interview. This can be done with a video camera, or by simply taking notes. Try to record more than responses. Try to capture the questions, body language, direct quotes, and more.

1. Identify roles for each member, and collect recording equipment or materials.
2. When conducted in our Design Cohorts, we typically give each rotation of roles 7-10 minutes. We use a stop watch counting up to keep track of time visibly for all. Countdown timers typically have a buzzer or bell that might disrupt an important moment, a count up timer allows for a more natural close to the interview at the appointed time.
3. Rotate roles, prepare for the next interview (if applicable).

B) Synthesis: The process of distilling out the major themes and insights from the interview and organizing them into themes or looking for patterns. What, Why, Wow. When possible you want to move an observation to an insight by articulating the why for the action or belief, rather than stating an observation without the why.

For example: the participants preferred to work at the tables. (what) Participants preferred to work at the tables because of the natural light and proximity to the coffee (what and why)

Ideo Interview for Empathy