“Empathy is the most important thing a designer can learn:”
This is something I believe designers often mistakenly refer to as ‘taste’. Being able to synthesize the personal tastes of a large group of people and express that is an act of empathy. Example: Detecting a shaky sense of American identity amidst a growing global culture, mashing that up with a renewed American entrepreneurialism and self-made-man ethic due to a struggling and unsure economy, and expressing that in the form of a bespoke leather wallet or hand-crafted all-American axe has much more to due with empathy than an Urban-Outfittrian mystical sense of taste. Good taste is personal; empathy is universal.