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How can I create a design that helps people empathize with each other?

Sep 2019 - Apr 2020   / 

MFA DT Thesis (Independent Project)

For Those Who Don't Have Tomorrow

For Those Who Don't Have Tomorrow is a vintage telephone installation that allows people to leave messages for their loved ones. Many people deal with losing loved ones and feel that there is no tomorrow without them. The project uses an Arduino inside a 3D-printed vintage telephone to listen and respond to someone's personal story. Eunjung Kim based this project on her personal story, combining an 80s-style public telephone from Seoul with an object, cherry blossoms, that reminds her of her grandfather. For Those Who Don't Have Tomorrow delivers a powerful story for those suffering from loss and creates connections between people who can't imagine tomorrow.

Adobe Illustrator


Adobe InDesign


Adobe After Effects


Adobe Photoshop


3D Printing



1. Problem: What am I empathizing with?

Shape a Point of View

This project started with a curiosity for how we can create empathy in design. At the beginning, I was trying to find a way to make people behave better because I thought creating empathy in design could do that. As I went through the series of events, my question was changed to how I can create a design that helps people empathize with each other as a designer.

2. Research & Insight

Defining themes and contexts
Finding answers

Based on the research, I made the hypothesis on how and what makes people empathetic and creates prototypes. However, I realized that everybody has different ideas and thoughts about empathy. I realized that the reason people felt uncomfortable about my idea is that I approached the way of creating empathy in design as an isolated problem that can be solved without thinking about the larger system, and tried to manage the circumstances outside of the context of the project. As a first step, I decided to share my personal story as a participant in the project.

Thesis project
How can I create a design that helps people empathize with each other?


Concept Prototype
Thesis project_prototype
Thesis project

While I was working on the project, I found that many people have memories of certain objects. The object that I chose was a telephone which reminds me of my grandfather. The process of designing the project consisted of 3 iterations. In the first iteration, I tried to find an appropriate object that people can interact with someone's personal stories and I noticed the attributes of the telephone: listening and talking. I also wanted to find an object that is associated with the telephone so that people can seamlessly participate with my project. Therefore, in the first iteration, I was trying to figure out how to combine two different objects together.


Thesis project(2021.5월)_Artboard 14.png
Thesis project_1st

During the first user testing,  I realized that the mechanism of a telephone and cassette tapes, one of the objects that I had considered, does not seamlessly work. Cassette tapes were a good example that evokes nostalgia, but some participants responded that my project felt like it is a cassette tape player that has the shape of a telephone, not a telephone anymore. Thus, I decided to only focus on a telephone.

Thesis project(2021.5월)_Artboard 15.png
Thesis project_2nd

The second iteration was a process of defining narrative and design. I decided to combine cherry blossoms — an object that reminds me of my grandfather — with a telephone and the design of the telephone that I have referred to is an 80's style public telephone in Seoul, South Korea. I thought the 1980s is an era that represents the passage of time: it was when the Seoul Olympics and the democratization movement took place, and it was the time that the object of my story, my grandfather, existed.

Thesis project_Storyboard
Thesis project_User Test

Then, I performed a second user testing based on the storyboard that I created and based on the test, I could get a system map that describes the user's behavior. Based on all the findings and insights, I created an organized system map and it helped me design the user flow for my project.

Thesis project_System Map.png
Thesis project(2021.5월)_Artboard 16.png
Thesis project.png

Due to an unexpected situation, COVID-19, I had to revise my plans in the third iteration. I was unable to do user testing, get feedback, and see interactions between people and my project. Therefore, based on the insights that I got from the previous iteration, I organized user flow and focused on installing Arduino on the real telephone. Then, I created a 3D-printed vintage 80s-style public telephone in Seoul and glued cherry blossoms on the surface of it.


Thesis Project.jpg

The narrative that I am going to deliver to the audience is about my grandfather. He passed away a few years ago, and since he lived far away from my place, I usually contacted him with a telephone. On the day he passed away, there were lots of cherry blossom trees on the road, fluttering all around. I wanted to use these two objects that remind me of my grandfather for creating my project.

Thesis project.png

As a way to combine the two objects, cherry blossoms and a telephone, I created a 3D-printed 80s-style public telephone in Seoul and glued cherry blossoms that I designed on the surface of it. There is an Arduino inside the telephone so that people who participate in my project will be able to listen and respond to the story.

Beyond Empathy
Beyond Empathy

Along with the trailer, I turned my thesis paper into a book.

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