The most important trait designers set aside

Riel M
4 min readApr 10, 2021

I want you to bear with me for a minute, and just open the biggest search engine in the world (oh well, that’s Google) and try to search for the traits of a UX designer.

If you’ve done so and did the job perfectly, then most probably you’ll see the results such as:

User empathy
Being empathic

and a lot more Empathy…

And to be honest, it is actually a no-brainer for any designer who has been practicing UX design to identify the most important quality of a designer. Even in design interviews when they ask you, what are you strongest at? and with eyes closed and without skipping a heartbeat, you’ll answer, Empathy.

But actually, it is not empathy (yea I know, you want to sucker punch me). I know we’ve been in this business thinking that it’s all about being an empathic designer, who has the heart to understand and share feelings with others (with users). But no it’s not.

I remember meeting a user for a casual dinner with the goal of knowing her experiences in the app. I sat next to her and for the next hour, all she talked about was her lifestyle, her clothes, and her laziness to answer anything related to our app.

So tell me, how can you be empathic in such a situation? I have my own feelings which I don’t have the time to deal with, and so why on earth should I deal with theirs?

Empathy is hard

Empathy is not something you just pick up across the road and say “I have it!”

Empathy is hard.

And designing is not about empathy.

It is about vulnerability — the quality that we set aside because we f*ckin hate being vulnerable.

What is vulnerability?

Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s that unstable feeling we…