How to Design for Real Users in Two Hours

We at the K12 Lab are known for running workshops with educators. So when our friends from HP Life called and suggested we run an introductory design thinking workshop for the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, we figured we’d learn a thing or two by working with a new type of participants. And we decided to cook up something special by transforming our regular introductory workshop into a two-hour workshop experience with real empathy users.

Why have real empathy users? We often use a Design Project Zero to introduce a novice to design thinking by having them partner with another novice and design for each other. But since we’d only have one shot to work with these global entrepreneurs before they returned home, we thought they’d benefit from working more closely with a users who were from the same geographical area and experienced a similar set of daily challenges. In other words, we were looking for a challenge that more closely mimicked the customer-business relationship.

After a few sessions of brainstorming with HP, we came to a design frame we thought would be ripe for innovation: Re-design the new parent experience. And with a little help from our greater Stanford community, we were able to find brave users who were willing to come by for empathy work.


From our perspective, the experience was vibrant and inspiring. The new global designers invented products like the BabyBit (think of a fitbit pacifier that interprets baby sounds for parents) and a new commuter train that offers new mothers precious moments of self-care while they commute.

A common takeaway from our workshops is how much value and insight our designers found from talking to their users. This lesson holds true whether you’re a principal talking to your students or an entrepreneur interviewing customers. We hear this a lot, it bears repeating: Go out and empathize with your users. They’ll lead you down a path of insight and innovation you never knew was possible.

If you’d like to learn more, head over to the K12 wiki for materials from the day.