Carolyn Conner Seepersad, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin Photo
Segal Seminar Series

Carolyn Conner Seepersad, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin

May 28, 2013, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center
1.350 (ITW Classroom)
2133 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL 60208

Empathetic Experience Design: The Effects of Extraordinary User Experiences on Customer Needs Analysis and Product Redesign


Empathic experience design (EED) is a conceptual design method for stimulating innovative concept generation by engaging designers and/or customers in empathic experiences. Empathic experiences are demanding product interaction tasks, intended to help a design engineer empathize with customers who use a product under a variety of sometimes challenging conditions. Empathic experiences involve manipulating the user and/or the usage environment to challenge dominant modes of interacting with a product and to create the types of conditions often experienced by lead users who push a product to its extremes and experience needs prior to the general population. A representative example is the use of heavy gloves to simulate either actual disabilities, such as arthritis, or situational disabilities, such as extreme cold or fatigue that make it difficult to move one's fingers freely. The EED method couples concept generation activities with a series of empathic experiences involving a baseline product to be redesigned. The seminar will begin by motivating the EED method with an empirical study of award-winning mechanical products. The study motivates the need for the EED method by revealing that the majority of the award-winning products offer improved product-user interactions, with far fewer offering expanded functionality or modified product architectures. Then, two experimental studies of the EED method will be presented—one investigating whether the EED method helps designers become better innovators and the second investigating whether the EED method helps customers themselves become better innovation partners. Avenues for further work will be discussed, including opportunities to evaluate the innovation capabilities of student engineers.


Carolyn Conner Seepersad is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and General Dynamics Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2004, an MA/BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University in 1998, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University in 1996. She is a former Rhodes Scholar, Hertz Fellow, and NSF Graduate Fellow. Dr. Seepersad’s research involves the development of methods and computational tools for engineering design and additive manufacturing. Her research interests include simulation-based design of complex systems and materials, design for additive manufacturing, innovation, and environmentally conscious design of products and energy systems. In 2009, Dr. Seepersad was the inaugural recipient of the International Outstanding Young Researcher Award in Freeform and Additive Manufacturing from the additive manufacturing community. In 2010, she received the University of Texas Regents’ Award for Outstanding Teaching by an Assistant Professor, the highest teaching award for faculty in The University of Texas System. In 2013, she received ASEE's Outstanding New Mechanical Engineering Educator award. Dr. Seepersad is the recipient of a Best Paper Award for the 2009 ASME Design Theory and Methodology Conference and two best paper awards for the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. She is also the author of more than 80 peer-reviewed conference and journal publications and one book. She co-organizes the annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium. She has also been a participant (2010) and session organizer (2012) for the annual NAE Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, a symposium organized by the NAE for a select group of emerging engineering leaders ages 30-45, and an invited speaker for the 2013 German-American FOE. She teaches courses on product design, additive manufacturing, and design of complex engineered systems.

Contact Wei Chen at 847-491-7019 or for further questions.