The Value of Empathy in Design Disciplines


This paper examines empathy and its importance in designing our world. It highlights the belief that design requires empathy and designing with empathy should be a baseline, not an accolade. Examples of design without empathy help to understand the necessity of it in design, including but not limited to defensive architecture. The difference between inclusive and exclusive design and the seeming obviousness can further the understanding of why empathy is needed due to our biases. As designers “the sense of well-being and perception of a good life” to all, is required. However, design disciplines don’t necessarily always award projects for empathetic design but rather those that are sustainable, LEED, or Zero Net Energy, or based on aesthetics. This analyzed different ways the field of design does and does not successfully incorporate empathy within all its aspects. It surveyed the American Institute of Architects (AIA) awards criteria in recent years as well as other important architecture awards criteria. The initial findings suggest that while empathy in design is starting to be addressed in scholarly articles and in academia, it lacks recognition and value in the field of design. Understanding the scale of design and its effect on the world can be our starting point.


Greta Mehlberg
Student, Architecture, University of Tennessee, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—New Agendas for Design: Principles of Scale, Practices of Inclusion


Empathy, Design, Disciplines, Inclusive, Exclusive

Digital Media


The Value of Empathy in Design Disciplines (pdf)