In my world of user experience design, there is a common rule you learn early - spoken by other designers. "You are not the user."
Sidenote: good designers never say something so dehumanizing as "users" in public.
The point is creatives often start the process of designing a problem or solving by asking, "what do I want or desire?" Or the more dangerous "what would I do?"
The problem here is focusing on the self instead of others. And we can't know others' motives with ease. Companies deploy research and study to understand people, but research still only informs decisions and doesn't make them.
Amateur designers employ intuition on themselves then projects it on to others. In this way, we mistake our desires with empathy for others.
The professional designer - designs for others. (And a little for themselves, but they are really good at hiding it.)
Our intuition is not always wrong. But our instinct would be better if we can push from our mind what we would do and search for the voice of what others need - this is the skill of empathy.
The old greek origin of empathy is empátheia, meaning "in passion" with a positive meaning. There is not some unique old insight in empathy - instead, the wisdom is that it has been around a very long time.
Empathy is the gateway to generous caring. But at times, we get beat down in our jobs, lose our passion, and become part of the job machine.
Some companies build creatives up; others crush them without realizing it. Regardless, the creative life is one I crave, and so it's the one I'll live regardless of my job.
In this way, I do art in the machine - by caring.
Sometimes I care about my craft - sometimes I care about people or how I work—but always finding a space where I can care. Otherwise, I risk losing the glow in my heart for others, and that's not a risk creatives should take.