Reflective practice as an enabler of empathy in design of smart mobility products and systems: benefits derived by undergraduate students on TInnGO

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The Horizon 2020 funded TInnGO project aims to create a paradigm shift in transport. Part of this remit requires building up the capacity and understanding of future transport designers and engineers to enable them to create more gender and diversity sensitive smart mobility products. To fulfil this aim, a number of design and engineering students worked on concept designs (or provocations) using ideas submitted from 10 EU hubs relating to current, context specific, mobility related challenges (Magee et al, 2021).
Design students, and professional designers face difficulties when communicating with traditionally hard to reach groups. There are cultural, social and language barriers to overcome which leads to a sense of designing ‘for the other’ and unequal power relationships, which can render citizen engagement tokenistic and lead to dissatisfaction and further disengagement – especially if the reasons for seemingly ignoring user suggestions are not conveyed.
The issue for designers is in knowing how to communicate in an appropriate manner; be that at a personal, casual, investigative, or business/ professional level. The real difficulty arises when we consider, what is appropriate? The purpose of engaging with citizens is to learn from their experience; to ‘walk in their shoes’; to empathise with them and their situation. If, as enquirers, we fail to probe deeply enough, then our understanding is shallow, designs do not meet user needs and opportunities are lost. From a mobility perspective this means that smart mobility innovations (both products and services) may ‘exclude’ certain groups – and as a consequence uptake may be limited and innovations closed down before they can lead to sustainable behavioural change.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Oct 2021
Event10th International Symposium on Travel Demand Management: Gender and Equality in Transport - Virtual
Duration: 17 Nov 202119 Nov 2021


Conference10th International Symposium on Travel Demand Management
Abbreviated titleTDM
Internet address

Bibliographical note

The work was conducted as part of the EU funded, H2020 TInnGO project, grant number 824349.


Dive into the research topics of 'Reflective practice as an enabler of empathy in design of smart mobility products and systems: benefits derived by undergraduate students on TInnGO'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this