Surface Summer School

For Joe Doucet, Optimism and Empathy Are the Keys to Good Design

"If you don't start with the belief you can change things, then you’ll never change anything," the designer tells UPenn students at Surface Summer School.

The multifaceted creative talent and founder of Joe Doucet x Partners, known for his solution-oriented design approach, spoke to students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design as part of the Surface Summer School lecture series. The class is currently in the midst of a competition to design a mobile testing unit for COVID-19.

Takeaways: Doucet honed in on two qualities he considers paramount to meaningful and effective design: empathy and optimism. “You start off with the understanding that you have the ability to make life better for people, to make the world a better place,” Doucet said. The second pillar of his philosophy is familiar, yet his context is more challenging. “Empathy is a very soft-sounding, cuddly word but I don’t mean empathy in just caring about others because that should be a given,” Doucet said. “I mean it in a Daniel Day-Lewis kind of way—really looking and relating and becoming the people you are designing for. You have to inhabit them and think about everything they are thinking, every stress they may have, and solve for that.” 

See the full schedule for the lecture series.

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