Next week: a simplified Design with Intent toolkit, v.0.9

The ‘Design with Intent method‘, on which I’m working as the first part of my PhD, has been fairly sparsely reported on this blog. This is intended to be an innovation method for helping designers faced with “behaviour change” problems come up with useful solutions, or in situations where helping users to use a product or system more efficiently would be worthwhile. The ideas that have gone into it are (mostly) the ‘positive’ side of what we’ve discussed on the blog for the last few years.

The brief series of posts from last summer about getting people to do things in a particular order, which more recently got some attention from Kati London’s ‘Persuasive Technologies: Designing the Human‘ class at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (with some very interesting student commentary) was based on a relatively early iteration of the method. At some point, I’ll draw up a comparison between the iterations of the method, even if simply for my own clarity of mind – it’s helpful to record why I changed different aspects along the way.

The initial plan had been for it to be almost TRIZ-like in terms of ‘prescribing’ relevant design techniques to help achieve particular target behaviours. The first few iterations of the method thus took the form of a kind of hierarchical decision tree. Live|Work‘s very helpful advice to me last summer to reduce the prescriptive nature slightly by having a kind of illustrated ‘idea space’ led – in due course – to the version tested in the pilot studies carried out in late 2008 and earlier this year. What the studies showed, among other things (to be reported in the Persuasive 2009 paper!) was that many designers, when asked to come up with concept solutions, don’t really like working from categories and rules and hierarchies, even where they would be useful. Some do (and with impressively exhaustive efficiency), but many don’t: they preferred to use the method as a kind of well of inspiration, without necessarily using it in any kind of procedural way.

So – and there’s another reason for this, too, which I’ll be able to announce at some point – it seemed sensible to redesign the method to accommodate both modes of working: a ‘prescription mode’ for the more procedure-driven designer, and an ‘inspiration mode’ for the designer who prefers less bounded creativity (a bit more like IDEO’s method cards, but not quite as unstructured as the Oblique Strategies). The inspiration mode is essentially a very simplified, flattened set of design patterns loosely grouped into different ‘lenses’ representing views on influencing behaviour, but with no real structure beyond that. It’s more of a ‘toolkit’ than a method, and because of its relative simplicity it seems worth releasing to get some feedback without too much more work. The “eight design patterns for errorproofing” post from a few weeks back is a kind of preview of part of it.

On Monday morning, then, there’ll be a large poster available to download on the blog, and I’ll do a series of posts forming the online component of the toolkit. So please, feel free to comment, make suggestions for improvements or better examples, or pick holes in it!

P.S. I’m aware the blog needs a bit of housekeeping in terms of making the sidebar work properly again in IE, fixing the very out-of-date blogroll, and my appalling sloth in replying to people who’ve very kindly sent very interesting links and ideas. I will try to get round to it all soon.