🔵 Empathize phase

What? How? Why? is a tool to help you reach deeper levels of observation. It’s a simple scaffolding to move you from concrete observations of a particular situation to the more abstract emotions and motives at play behind the scenes. 

This is particularly powerful when analyzing photos that your team took in the field, both for synthesis purposes, and to direct your team to future areas of need-finding. 

How to use What? How? Why?


Divide a sheet into three sections: What?, How?, and Why?

Start with concrete observations

What is the user doing in a situation or photograph? Notice and write down objective details. Don’t make assumptions just yet.

Move to understanding

How is the user doing what they’re doing? Does it require effort? Do they appear rushed? Does the activity appear to be a negative or positive experience? Use phrases packed with adjectives.

Step out on a limb of interpretation

Why is the user doing what they’re doing in the particular way they’re doing it? Make informed guesses regarding motivation and emotions. This step reveals assumptions you should test with users, and often uncovers unexpected insights.


design thinking bootleg by d.school at Stanford University