Empathy Map

Looking for background information on Human-Centered Design? Go here for an introduction


The Empathy Map is used for activities related to Research in the Human-Centered Design process


“Stepping into the shoes of another person to deepen our understanding of their perspective”

Time required: 5–30 minutes

What is an Empathy Map?

An Empathy Map is a simple, flexible tool to focus a conversation on a person’s sensory experience. It is a way to learn more about the perspectives of the clients you serve, from young children to adults. It is often used early on in the design cycle to build empathy, and to support engagement and early discovery.

Download the Empathy Map (English) | Empathy Map (Spanish)

Empathy Map.png

When should I use an Empathy Map?

  • To learn more about a person’s experience accessing your service or their experience day-to-day

  • To guide a focused conversation with the clients you serve

  • Getting clients to anonymously describe their experience after participating in a larger group session—including their needs and obstacles. You can then later analyze the data

How do I use an Empathy Map?

  • Determine a scenario

  • You can use the Empathy Map as an interview tool to ask people questions. You may also ask people to fill it out themselves as a way to reflect upon their sensory experience

  • Ensure that all six sensory questions on the map are answered in as much detail as possible, in addition to the questions on the second page

  • Review the Empathy Map data think about the person’s needs. List three things that person wants or needs, and three obstacles to those needs

Trauma-Informed Considerations

  • As a service provider, you a capable partner in empowering people and affirming their autonomy and dignity

  • If using an Empathy Map to guide a conversation with a client, clearly explain what the Empathy Map is and why you’ve chosen to use it

  • Listen deeply and ask the questions on the Empathy Map as they make sense. Think of it as a tool to promote a deep conversation. You do not need to follow the tool exactly. It should be used to build rapport and trust between client and service provider

  • Never interject, re-define, or paraphrase a person’s experience. Just take word-for-word notes

  • Children who have experienced trauma often have poor verbal skills, difficulty with memory, and may have trouble focusing. Be patient and give the child as much time as they need to reflect and end the conversation if you see signs of distress

Additional Tips and Tricks

You don’t need to have an Empathy Map worksheet to help guide the conversation. Just draw a cartoon face in the middle of the page with lines radiating out from the face to divide the page into six areas. Label the areas: Seeing, Saying, Thinking, Hearing, Feeling, Doing.

When you can, invite clients in to fill out the Empathy Map themselves. Developing Empathy Maps for varied and contrasting hypothetical clients/stakeholders can really round out your understanding of their experience.

Post the completed Empathy Maps where you (and your team, if you have one) can see them daily. Completing and regularly referring to an Empathy Map helps you and your team to consider the many forces around your clients that affect their experiences. Check in from time to time: What would “Karl” say about this change?

Why not give the Empathy Map a try?