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"Build empathy with users" says industrial designer Ayse Birsel

Designing with empathy for the consumers of today and the future is a challenge we must take on, says Birsel + Seck co-founder Ayse Birsel at a talk filmed by Dezeen for Global Design Forum in partnership with SAP.

"If we have the users in the room thinking with us and using our tools to think creatively, that changes everything," Birsel said.

Called Creating a Compelling Reason for Change as part of the Circular Design Series, the talk brought together a panel of design and digital thought leaders to discuss how to design for consumers in the face of global economic, environmental and social pressures.

David Yonker, Vice President, Insights Research Center at SAP, photo by Daniel Salemi
David Jonker is vice president of the Insights Research Center at SAP

"When we get to designing and changing the system, it's a multifaceted challenge," said vice president at SAP Insights Research Centre David Jonker during the talk.

"Those who will be the disruptors are those who are willing to question some of the fundamental assumptions that we take for granted," he continued.

Eli Halliwell, chairman at Hairstory, photo by Daniel Salemi
Eli Halliwell is the chairman of haircare company Hairstory

There is an opportunity to design products to be inherently better and cleaner, said executive chairman and co-founder of Hairstory Eli Halliwell.

"The step-function change comes from rethinking the actual problem that you're trying to solve, versus just iterating on the delivery mechanism or the packaging," Halliwell said.

Ayse Birsel, co-founder of Birsel + Seck, photo by Daniel Salemi
Ayse Birsel is an industrial designer and co-founder of Birsel + Seck

Birsel also spoke about how inclusive consumer research can promote change, explaining that consumer datasets historically tend to be skewed towards men.

"For example, pianos are not measured and made for women, and that means there are very few great pianists who are women in the world, not because they are not talented, but because the products are not designed for that data set," said Birsel.

"It's on us to design great products for this new era, which is our future," she continued. "We're living longer and longer but the planet's life is shorter and shorter."

Birsel expressed that consumers in today's world have the opportunity to collaborate with designers.

"When I think of circularity of design, it's not only design and brand together anymore, it also includes the user. When we can do that, we build incredible empathy with our users. They feel heard, they feel seen," she said.

The Standard High Line Hotel, photo by Daniel Salemi
The talk was held at The Standard, High Line in New York City

Global Design Forum is London Design Festival's curated thought-leadership programme. Its flagship event will take place as part of the London Design Festival in September.

Photography is by Daniel Salemi.

Creating a Compelling Reason for Change is the second talk filmed by Dezeen as part of Global Design Forum's The Future of Packaging symposium, which took place on 23 May 2023 at The Standard High Line Hotel during design festival NYCxDesign. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

Partnership content

This video was produced by Dezeen as part of a partnership with London Design Festival. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.