What’s been going on recently

The RSA House, London
RSA Design Directions 2009/10

The RSA’s 2009/10 Design Directions competition has been launched, which means up and down the country there are design students and new graduates working on one of the pretty wide selection of briefs. Given the RSA’s aim of ‘removing barriers to social progress’ – with a significant commitment to using design to do this – the briefs are themed around design for social benefit, addressing issues ranging from helping an ageing workforce to helping new architecture graduates apply their skills in other contexts.

A couple of the briefs are explicitly about design for behaviour change, and thanks to working with Jamie Young of the RSA’s Design & Behaviour project on some ideas for briefs earlier this year, the Design with Intent toolkit is explicitly referenced as a ‘resource’ for the Independence Days brief on ‘reinventing assistive technology’ (sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board) and A matter of life…, a brief about improving patient compliance with taking prescribed medication (sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline). Both of these are very noble causes and I hope the Design with Intent patterns are useful inspiration in some small way; I look forward to seeing some of the results!

Design Approach worksheet by Nedra Kline WeinreichDesign Approach worksheet

Nedra Kline Weinreich, author of Hands-on Social Marketing, has created a fantastic Design Approach for Behaviour Change worksheet based on the 12 design patterns from my Design with Intent toolkit poster.

By re-framing each of the patterns as a question – e.g. “How can you provide a cue to action at the appropriate time?” for kairos (discussed by BJ Fogg in his original book, Persuasive Technology) – Nedra turns the patterns more directly into cues for action themselves for a design team to brainstorm or think about. After working through the questions, asking each of them about the behaviour problem you’re working on, you pretty much end up with a set of possible solutions: this is a very clever way to structure the idea generation process. (As such I’ve added a link to Nedra’s worksheet to the DwI intro page of this site.)

Inspired by Nedra’s thinking, the next version of the DwI toolkit, which I’m putting together at present, will have a question element to each of the patterns.

Design for Persuasion, Brussels
Design for Persuasion conference, Brussels

Design for Persuasion handoutAt the beginning of October I was honoured to be invited to speak at Design for Persuasion, a new conference taking place at the impressive Belgacom Surfhouse in Brussels, organised (very well) by Christel de Maeyer and BJ Fogg.

The event was mainly directed towards ‘new media’ persuasion and design, focusing on practical applications rather than academic studies, and featured some great presentations from people such as Richard Sedley (who kindly took the above photo for me!), Amy Shuen, Bart de Waele (whose excellent ‘Addictive Websites’ slides you can see here), and other expert practitioners. Many of the presentations are on Slideshare; there are also some very nice photos on Flickr from Katrien Degreef.

Here’s my presentation (below) with a transcript here and image credits here. The handout (picture above right) I refer to is here [PDF].

Many thanks to Christel and BJ for organising this, and to the great people I talked to, including Nynke, Marijn and Arjan.

BURA stats
A pleasing statistic

Thanks to readers of this blog, the DwI toolkit v.0.9 poster [PDF] I originally posted back in April is at time of writing, the most-downloaded document ever from Brunel University’s institutional repository, BURA. (Much, much more than any of our other papers, too!)

With 28,000 downloads since it went on BURA, plus another 5,000 or so directly from the blog before I changed where the link pointed, and probably a few directly from Google Books (as well as a handful of at-cost sales of the physical printed poster) it gives me an incredibly warm feeling to think that so many people all over the world have found it interesting enough to read (and hopefully – in at least some cases! – use) it. Please do let me know (in the comments, or by email) if you’ve found it useful (or useless), what problems you’ve applied it to, how you think it could be improved, and so on, or have a go at the survey.

The next version (v.0.95) will take a different form (cards – which some of you will have tried out in a couple of workshops) and include some new patterns, as well as ‘question’ phrasing as mentioned above. I hope to have this available to download (or buy as a card deck) by the end of 2009.

Thanks again for making the DwI toolkit a success!

Things which slipped by without me writing about them much here

The last few months have been very busy for me as I rush to progress the PhD in sufficient depth and breadth while still doing other things, and I’m aware that I haven’t talked much about all this on the blog. I’ve been to the DiGRA conference and had great discussions with Ian Bogost and Sebastian Deterding; I’ve been to dConstruct and talked to Adam Greenfield; been to Greengaged and blogged about it for the site; been to a conference on Naturalistic Decision-Making and got some incisive advice from Gary Klein himself; and am about to present this paper [PDF] at Sustainable Innovation ’09. With the help of some great participants (including Frankie who interviewed me here!) I’ve also managed to complete a series of Design with Intent workshops in which we’ve addressed a range of behaviour change briefs. The results of these workshops will be reported on here at some point soon, I promise!

So, stay tuned: as winter approaches, and sitting in front of a warm, glowing rectangle becomes more appealing, I will endeavour to blog more often and about more real examples of design with intent in the wild, a bit more like the blog used to be. Thanks for sticking with me.

Some interesting projects (Part 2)

Following on from Part 1, here are a couple more very interesting student projects linking design and behaviour. This time, both involve providing feedback on the impact or costs of everyday behaviours in order to get people to think.

Tim Holley’s Tio project, developed in response to a brief by Onzo, and described as ‘A Light Switch to Help Children Save Energy’ – deservedly won the HSBC Sustainability Prize at the Made in Brunel show:

Tio by Tim Holley
“Children play a key role in reducing energy consumption due to the fact that they will be among the key decision-makers in the next 30 years. A simple way to engage and educate them is to concentrate on lighting, which accounts for up to 15% of electricity use in the home. The target market for Tio is 7-11 year-olds. This coincides with a period in primary education during which children begin to learn about the environment, energy and the effects that humans are having on the world. Tio [...]allow[s] children to demonstrate their knowledge of energy conservation to their family and encourage their role as ‘energy champions’ of the home. Tio has the potential to reduce lighting-use by up to 25%, resulting in an energy saving of up to 11% over a five year period…

Tio by Tim Holley
The wall-mounted light switch[...] controls the lighting in the child’s room. Tio is soft and tactile, thus encourages user interaction. The character of ‘Tio’ displayed on the light switch encourages children to turn their lights off: Tio is happy when the lights have only been on for a short period of time. The longer they are left on, the angrier he becomes. This acts as an emotional reminder to turn the lights off…

The recommended ‘lights-on time’ is influenced by the child’s age, their daily activities and the time of day. [...] Information (‘lights-on’ time) is sent wirelessly from the wall switch to a computer. The computer programme allows the child to track their lighting-use performance over an extended period of time. The child takes care of a ‘virtual tree’ by moderating their lighting-use performance. This engages children to make a personal contribution to reducing energy consumption.”
Tio by Tim Holley

There are some clever ideas in there, including pester-power (“Make sure your parents turn off their lights too”) and, from a Design with Intent toolkit point of view, some of the patterns you might be able to identify include affective engagement, self-monitoring, material properties and metaphors. There’s some neat product detailing too, such as the way Tio’s expressions are formed by different patterns of LEDs being illuminated under the translucent case.

Tim was a very useful and insightful tester of an earlier version of the Design with Intent toolkit back in autumn 2008 (as part of the pilot study reported in this co-authored paper [direct PDF link]) so it’s great to see his project get such recognition. He’s now working for Onzo in product R&D strategy and has some exciting and ambitious plans for the future: as a very talented young designer bringing together creative user-centred design and technology expertise with an eye for business strategy, I’m sure Tim will go far.

Lehman's Inheritance by Alexander KirchmannAcross London at Goldsmiths, Alexander Kirchmann’s ‘Lehman’s Inheritance’ project aims “to create and design products, that can help an individual to manage the [economic] crisis” such as this pint glass with cost markings (right). As Alexander puts it, “my products are the inheritance of the crash… By exposing people to their spending and also to their earnings my design is saving the owner money.”

This is an incredibly simple project (at least the example that’s illustrated – I’d be interested to know what other products Alexander modified / created). But the impact of exposing costs in this way – self-monitoring without any special equipment – could be very effective. In some of the recent workshops I’ve run with designers and students, similarly low-tech feedback concepts have been suggested for problems such as reducing water wastage (sinks with scales marked on them) and reducing overfilling of electric kettles.

More projects coming up in Part 3.

Images from the websites linked.