Introduction: Empathetic Designing: Baking Brownies to Turn Frownies Into Smilies

My mother and sister often bake sweet treats on the weekends. This has been a regime that they have been practicing for years and is apart of our family’s tradition and bonding. And the COVID-19 quarantine has been no exception. More so than ever, my family has been baking treats in order to relieve the worries of corona if only a little and to find something to pass the time.

My empathetic design proposal is that I bake brownies for my family. I thought that it would be nice if I could be the one giving back to my family rather than the other way around as per usual. But why brownies? I chose brownies because they are my sister’s favorite baked goods. The idea would be for me to surprise my family, and especially my sister, who has been stressing immensely over this virus by giving them something sweet to smile about. My attempt would be to make my family feel relieved of stress if only for a short moment. The other goal with these brownies is to make my family feel supported. Say it be my mother who has to cook for us under these straining conditions or my father who has to risk himself by going to the grocery store, my brownies are my way of showing my support for everything they do. For example, my sister will end her day after 7 hours of online school. Every day she looks utterly drained and exhausted. When she comes down from her room, I think it would be great if a container of brownies was waiting for her to snack on. Not only would this give her energy after a day’s work but it would be my way of showing support.



-1/2 cup salted butter melted

-1 cup granulated sugar

-2 large eggs

-1 teaspoons vanilla extract

-1/2 cup all-purpose flour

-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon baking powder



-Rubber Spatula, or whisk

-Rubber Brush



-Baking Pan

-Mixing Bowl

Step 1: Empathy Research

What is empathy? By definition, the word empathy means “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” If empathy is the ability to understand one another, then in order to accomplish this task I have to put myself in the shoes of others and think from their perspective.

For this project, I have two clients in mind. My mother and my younger sister. Firstly I interviewed my mother, asking her about her daily struggles. She gave me a variety of responses but there were two that caught my attention. The first was that she needed help in sorting out her kitchen. For my mother who cooks and cleans every day, it becomes really inconvenient and inefficient when her workspace is cluttered. Especially now, the kitchen is cluttered more than ever because my family has been stockpiling on supplies for COVID. After listening to her, I realized that by baking brownies I could help to get rid of a lot of the unnecessary supplies still left on the shelves and make space for more useful stock.

Another issue that appeared while in talking to my mother was that she lacked support, a lot of what she does for the house is taken from granted. It became clear to me that we were so caught up in our lives that we didn’t take the time to say a simple thank you to her.

For my sister, she would often finish the day feeling drained from online classes. I could sympathize because I also take online classes and I know what it is like. Therefore, I could also relate to her needs. She needed encouragement to continue the day, to get things done like her homework after school ended. This aligned with my brownies because not only would it provide her physical energy to continue the day but also mental encouragement.

After interviewing my clients, I realized that they were feeling drained from adjusting to a new life under the virus and that they lacked support. My brownies are my way of telling my family “thank you”, encouraging and giving them energy. They are also my way of helping to clean the house and to ease the burden of responsibilities.

Step 2: Preheat Oven

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C)

Step 3: Gather Your Dry Ingredients

Gather all the listed dry ingredients in one area.

-1 cup granulated sugar

-1/2 cup all-purpose flour

-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

-1/4 teaspoon salt

Step 4: Gather Your Wet Ingredients

Gather all the listed wet ingredients in one area.

-2 large eggs

-½ cup butter

-1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Step 5: Microwave Butter

Once you have all of your ingredients, take 1/2 cup of butter and microwave it for 20 seconds to soften.

Step 6: Mix Ingredients

Take the butter and put it inside of a mixing bowl. Beat the butter till creamy. Next, add your sugar and vanilla extract. Once the sugar and extract are mixed, add your eggs and beat until you get a consistent batter. Once this is done add in your cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder until you get a brown chocolate-like batter.

Step 7: Flour and Grease Baking Pan

Once you have your batter, take cooking oil and spread thinly on the pan using a brush. Afterward, take flour and spread over the oil. This is to stop the brownie from sticking to the pan.

Step 8: Spread the Batter Over Floured Pan

With your floured pan, take the batter you made and spread it evenly over the surface.

Step 9: Bake Brownies

Once the brownie batter has been spread, all that's left to do is to bake it in the oven which we preheated (350) for about 25-30 minutes. After 25-30 minute remove the brownie from the oven and let it cool off for 10 minutes.

Step 10: Let the Smiles Rain In!

And Voilà your brownie is now complete! Cut it up into squares and let the frownies turn into smilies! After completing my brownies, my mother and sister tried them and told me how much they enjoyed the tasty treats. They appreciated how the brownies were my way of giving back thanks and supporting them through tough times.

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