Empathy and product design are not mutually exclusive.
Design is as much about empathy as it is about selling product. I think that’s my favorite part about what I do for a living. Like actors, designers must place themselves into a character when working to solve a communication design problem. By understanding the end user (for lack of a better way to say it) designers can speak visually in an appropriate way.
Take maxi pads as an example, the end user and as a result, the packaging, must look very different from what a box of nails might look. The words, textures, colors, image choices, photography, and type choices must be specific to the maxi pad user, or else the design will be speaking a in language they won’t understand. Of course, what a maxi pad package must look like is debatable. It depends on what kind of user you’re taking to. But the core of the problem is the same – speaking visually with a focused tone is essential.