Criteria of an Alternative Empathy Research Method to Uncover End-user’s Supra-Functionality Needs in Home Sofa Furniture

Document Type : Original Article


Faculty of Design, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Tabriz


Furniture products have reached a level of functional maturity. To draw the end user’s eye, designers must provide them with added value in the realm of pleasure called Supra-functional (S-F) needs. These kinds of needs are completely emotional and difficult to express and understand. Empathy is the common approach in the Design Thinking process to understand end-user’s needs and gain insight into them. This study investigates to determine the criteria of an alternative empathy research method to uncover Home Sofa End-user’s S-F Needs. The theoretical proposition is: "An alternative empathy research method can be constructed by understanding end-users’ affective preferences as the main S-F factor in home sofa furniture to predict user’s purchase decision". The home sofa is useful furniture as people have a prolonged and intimate sensory interaction with this product, making it a good case to study end-user’s S-F needs. The research team used a qualitative approach and applied twenty-seven face-to-face interviews to collect data from furniture designers, furniture producers and furniture sellers as the main stakeholders in the furniture industry. ATLAS.ti software was used for coding and analysing the data. There were three levels of analysis, open coding, selective coding, and theoretical coding. The significant finding is: Sixteen criteria have emerged for alternative empathy research methods to uncover user’s S-F needs which is better done with the categorization of style and S-F ranking task. Research findings show that an alternative empathy research method that uses online services (collecting user data in the virtual mood) and visual approaches (as a nonverbal technique), can uncover more end-user’s S-F needs and deliver more pleasure products. The focus of this research was on the first step of the identification of user needs process (collecting raw data from users) to know user’s S-F needs. Studying the other steps of the process of identifying user’s S-F needs can be investigated in future studies such as interpreting the raw data in terms of user’s needs.


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