Empathy Mapping


  • To understand and address the needs of the people you want to innovate for.
  • To visualise the findings of your research in a human-centered way.

When To Run This

  • After you’ve finished conducting research.
  • You want to unpack the assumptions or prior knowledge your stakeholders have about their target audience.


30 minutes - 1 hour


Predefined user personas


  • Empathy Mapping template
  • Post-it notes
  • Markers
  • Large whiteboard
  • Or A3 paper




  • Choose your team or individual. If you’re mapping to create a shared understanding of users needs or to aid in decision-making, it’s better to do it as a team. If you’re mapping as an individual, make sure you’re across all the research.

  • Choose your personas and share them with the team, along with any earlier research.

  • Set up your Empathy Mapping templates — one per persona. Draw them out on a large whiteboard or print them on A3 paper.

  • Give each persona a character to differentiate them and to help you experience things from their point of view (POV). You can draw a user’s face on each map with a specific style (hair, eyes, expression) or print out a picture.

  • Gather information to base your empathy maps on, such as data from Interviews or field studies. 

Action It:Action It:

  • Populate your Empathy Map (s). Each team member can write out their ideas on post-it notes and stick them on the appropriate sections, or draw them directly onto the whiteboard. You can use the section-headers in the template or tailor them to suit your specific goals:

    1. Description - Who is this person? What situation are they in?
    2. Aim - What tasks do they need to complete?
    3. See, hear, say, do - What are they sensing and communicating?
    4. Pains - What are their fears and frustrations? These can be functional or emotional.
    5. Gains - What are their needs?
  • Group similar ideas within the same section. Name each group with the theme it represents (repeat themes if necessary).

  • Identify and discuss themes and patterns of the groups. The goal is for your team to have a shared understanding of your user. Are there recurring themes, which sections are certain themes in, are there any outliers or gaps? 

  • Peer review. Have others outside your team review your map(s), make suggestions, ask for clarification, and add details or context.

Next Steps:Next Steps:

  • Progress to the ‘Choose’ state. Use your Empathy Maps as a basis for your project and any tools you use.



  • Try to project yourself into a user’s mind when you’re trying to understand the situation or context from their POV. Fill in the sections with real, tangible, sensory experiences.
  • Watch out for solutions posing as needs - these are often nouns. Aim for verbs.
  • When filling out the ‘Hear’ section, think of what the character might hear, or how they might hear it. 
  • For ‘Say’ and ‘Do’, imagine what the customer says or how they would behave in public. What would they tell other people? If you can, use specific quotes or unusual phrases from your users that might have a deeper meaning. 
  • For ‘See’, you can use imagery to convey ideas.
  • If you’re stuck, ask questions like “What are the actions and behaviours that you have noticed?” or “What’s interesting or different about their sensory experience?”.


It's Going Well When:

  • There’s a deeper understanding of the user
  • You’re able to identify key insights and gaps
  • Contradictions are discovered and explored
  • All team members are contributing

Watch Out For:

  • Focusing on desires of users instead of needs 
  • Biases and assumptions
  • One person overriding the discussions
  • A lack of understanding and empathy 
  • Framing from business POV rather than the persona POV