Being a twin allowed me to become a compassionate designer
My twin and I did everything together growing up. We were so inseparable that our middle school decided it would be “healthy” for us to take separate classes. At the time I didn’t understand why separating us was so necessary. After all, I considered my brother a part of me — and thought that should be embraced more than scrutinized.
For those three years I did become more independent, but I also regressed in my ability to showcase empathy and compassion for others, now that I was focusing more on “me” and less on “we”.
So how does that relate to design?
Having a twin inherently made me an empathetic designer, and let my professional experiences make me a compassionate designer.
You might ask why I am using empathy and compassion in different contexts. Let me explain:
- “Empathetic designer” is a term that seems to just be thrown out there in job descriptions and portfolio homepages. The UX industry, and thus its workforce, treats it as a trait, and less as a qualification.
- Empathy is solely defined as “the ability to identify with or understand another’s situation or feelings”. No where in the definition does it mention taking action on your abilities.
- Compassion, on the other hand, is defined as “deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the wish to relieve it”. Compassionate designers gather insights, take action, and do not stop until their users are happy.
I experienced years of happiness, sorrow, love, joy and anger — just like everyone else. But I also saw all of these feelings at an extremely-personal, absolutely-unavoidable level. It’s no wonder how I got into customer support. Empathizing was something I did everyday. Now all I had to do was consistently and ethically act on the insights I garnered. I may not have always stood up for my brother (which I will always regret) but as I matured I learned to capture all these feelings and voice them.
I realize that designers have to make some product concessions. But the next time you are in a design meeting and the group passes off a user insight as “them just not knowing the tool” or “an outlier that just doesn’t get it” think about this article. Would you pass off an insight if it was your sister’s or your brother’s? Would you pass off the insight if was yours?
This article is dedicated to my twin brother, who I will always have compassion for.