Monthly archives of “August 2009

September workshop sessions: invitation

Design with Intent workshop sessionsDesign with Intent workshop sessions

As part of my PhD I’m testing different variants of the Design with Intent toolkit with designers (and design students) to find out how well different configurations work when a designer’s faced with a brief about influencing user behaviour: how useful are the ideas in inspiring solutions, and how well does using it compare to not using it?*

For the latest round of workshop sessions, to take place in September, I need 6 people to take part – if you’re a practising designer, design student or someone interested in this kind of field, and are able to give up a morning or afternoon, please do let me know.

I hope they’re relatively fun sessions – you get a series of design briefs and the idea is to generate and explain (sketches, notes, discussion) some possible solutions quite quickly – some briefs will mostly suit product solutions, while others are suitable for service solutions too. There’ll also be a bit about how you, as a designer, visualise and model the users you’re designing for, and how different design choices relate to different ‘models’ of the user. If you’re working on anything to do with behaviour change, or design innovation methods, I hope it will be useful to you.

There are going to be 3 sessions, with 2 participants in each. The sessions will last around 3 hours each; for part of it, you’ll be working together, and for the other part you’ll be working on your own. They’ll be during the week, taking place at Brunel University (Uxbridge, west London, end of the Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines). The most I can pay you for your time/travel is £10, plus cake or doughnuts or biscuits and plenty of coffee / tea / water. If that still sounds attractive, please get in touch!

The exact dates aren’t decided yet, because it depends on who’s taking part, so if you’re interested, please email me – and suggest a few of the following dates when you’d be available and I’ll get back to you if / when I can pair up people around at the same time! Possible dates are: 7, 8, 9, 10, (not 11 or 14), 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 September 2009.

Thanks for your help!

P.S. If a team from your company or organisation would like to take part in a full / longer / tailored-to-what-you-need ‘Design with Intent’ workshop, please get in touch too. The more people use this stuff, find flaws and suggest improvements, the better it’ll get and the more useful it’ll be.

Design with Intent workshop sessions
Photos from some workshop sessions earlier this summer. Doughnuts will be provided; racing car might not be there.

*The results, along with those from some of the other workshops I’ve run in the last few months, are going into an article to be submitted to Design Studies, and the results from part of the session may also be used in an article to be submitted to the International Journal of Design.

Some interesting projects (Part 1)

I’ve come across some interesting student projects at various shows and exhibitions this summer, some of which address the relationship between design and people’s behaviour in different situations, and some of which explicitly aim to influence what people do and think. Here’s a selection (Part 2 and Part 3 will follow).

Displacement Engine by Jasmine CoxDisplacement Engine by Jasmine Cox

Jasmine Cox‘s Displacement Engine (Dundee) is “a navigational compass which gives you a little extra push to break away from routine, to wander the unexplored route… By pulling the slider closer and pushing it further away, the user learns to relax the need to be heading in an absolute direction. It allows the experience of a place and an outdoor space to absorb and distract them.” The variability of the GPS signal means that the device perhaps won’t always be ‘reliable’ – again, leading the user to explore and think for him or herself rather than being able to trust the device entirely. As Jasmine says here, it’s somewhere between a sat-nav and dérive.

The question of how much the paths and routes we take (physically and in whatever metaphorical way you can think of) are controlled, or at least influenced, by what maps, devices, signs, etc are telling us is something that I’ve touched a few times with this blog over the years (e.g. here). Practical semiotics as wayfinding decision-making heuristics, maybe. As someone who grew up obsessively poring over maps and atlases, memorising road networks and coastlines, trying to visualise these unknown places (and drawing plenty of my own), I’m fascinated by the possibilities of sat-navs and navigational devices which structure our choices for us (as Adam Greenfield notes, perhaps even removing routes we ‘don’t want to be walking down’), even though (in practice) I very much dislike using them, and it horrifies me to become reliant on them. I’ve had the “ROAD ENDS 800 FEET” sign looming at me out of the night after following a calm voice’s directions down a canyon track somewhere off Mulholland Drive. I’ve also spent happy afternoons driving across the Fens with a scruffy, annotated Philip’s Navigator on my lap and no purpose in mind other than seeing interesting places, and I know which I prefer. Jasmine’s project helps bridge that divide a bit, or at least twist it in a new and intriguing direction.

Jasmine’s blog chronicling the development process is interesting, too: it’s a great insight into the thought processes of how a project like this actually gets done, the decisions made at different stages, and how contingent the result is on conditions, insights and ideas earlier on. I expect something like this helps quite a lot with writing up a major project, though I know I always wrote the development story for my projects right at the end, when the various dead-ends and mistakes could be woven and re-ordered into something that sounded more professional, or so I hoped.

Source by Oliver CraigSource by Oliver Craig

Intended to encourage people to drink more water while out shopping or walking, without buying bottled water (and throwing away the bottle each time) Source by Oliver Craig (Loughborough) is essentially a modern take on the public water fountain (which has disappeared in many areas of the UK – how many new shopping centres include them?), combining it with the convenience of bottled water: using special bottles filled via a valve in the base, pedestrians could get free filtered tap water from a network of fountains, positioned at the entrances to participating stores who would also sell the bottles. Re-using the bottles earns the user points which can be spent in the participating stores.

From one point of view, free fountains which don’t require a special bottle (i.e. no format lock-in) would be preferable (as so often in the UK, the concern is about “value for money” and vandalism rather than public need), but something like Source, with special bottles, the sale of which funds the scheme, could be a step in the right direction.

Ravensbourne’s Kei Wada‘s How Long? Door Knob and Tag, along with his Whose Turn? Bottle Opener address behaviours in a shared environment such as a student house, applying design to ‘bad habits’. The Bottle Opener (right, below) “is a playful bottle opener that can be spun to help make decisions” such as who has to take the rubbish out, or buy milk, in the format of an object associated with parties and fun (whether this would increase or decrease the likelihood that housemates adhere to the ‘decision’, I don’t know!).

The Door Knob and Tag (left and middle, below) are timers for bathroom or shower doors – the knob is a replacement knob / lock for the door itself, while the tag can be hooked over the handle without actually enforcing a ‘lock’. But the principle is the same: “inspired by the annoying occurrence of never knowing how long flatmate will take in the shower. The person who takes the shower sets the timer when he/she locks the door, so the other housemates do not have to knock on the door and disturb their ablutions. When time is up, it rings to let the housemates know the room is vacant.” I particularly like Kei’s statement that “the act of setting the timer now becomes an extension of the motions involved in locking the door” – whether or not this kind of action (which requires prior thought in terms of deciding how long to set it for) could become an unconscious habit or not would be interesting to study.

Aside from annoying your housemates less, the timers could also work to reduce water and energy usage, in terms of time spent in the shower: if the alarm ringing sound were annoying or loud enough to make it socially unacceptable to spend too long in there, then this is a kind of socially enforced shower timer.

Kei WadaKei WadaKei Wada

More projects coming up in Parts 2 and 3…

Images from the graduates’ websites linked.