Empathy by Design

Recently I rewatched the documentary (link)->Urbanized. I’ve seen it a couple of times. 

For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s part of director Gary Hustwit’s design trilogy. Helvetica, and Objectified are the other two thirds of the trilogy. 

This past week, a topic at Hammersport Marketing has been empathy, and the importance of listening. After a couple of glasses of wine I was thinking of sending Riley Seaburg, a founder and the CMO of HammerSport, a link to Urbanized. I thought about it, and realized sending him a link, might seem like a tangent, that had nothing to do with what we were talking about, so I decided to write a longer piece that he and others can read. 

Urbanized shows how design makes urban areas work well, and it shows examples of what doesn’t work. The film’s premise is design focused. It is a design trilogy. Many people might not be aware of how good design results from relationships. The relationships are often thought of as being purely aesthetic, but function and creating an environment where people can live comfortably and harmoniously is what makes the world work. Being aware of economic, cultural, recreational, domestic needs along with being aware of the social contracts that make up the fabric of different cities factors in on design. 

I was telling someone this morning about this trilogy. I mentioned Helvetica. She said, “there’s a documentary about a font? That doesn’t sound very interesting.” 

I said it’s about much more. It’s about relationships. These films articulate what most people don’t feel a need to articulate, but when they hear someone else do it well, they realize the importance of what they walk by and likely take for granted. I love this quote from the Chicago Tribune about Helvetica.

“The real achievement of the film is the way it sharpens your eye in general and makes connections between form and content, and between art and life.” – Chicago Tribune

Essentially good design comes from listening, and most any type of good relationship is based on listening and being aware of other’s needs, and to paraphrase Riley, not assuming what other people need.

Watch these films. They are interesting, entertaining and not dryly examining these subjects in the way a textbook would. 

In a way they hit on what you might already know, but sometimes forget. Our voice and needs are important, and attainable if we listen to each other.

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