How do people use products, systems and environments?
How can designers influence interaction?
How can we design for sustainable behaviour?
They’re quite broad concepts, and it’s a verbose tagline, but they pretty much describe what this blog’s about: understanding and influencing interaction, changing and shaping user behaviour, how it’s been done, could be done, and what the implications are, in product design, architecture, service design, software, and so on: pretty much any system with which a user interacts. The ‘sustainable’ element comes from finding a domain in which to apply the research usefully.
I’m Dan Lockton, a designer/engineer/researcher from the UK, and I started this site in 2005 (soon turning it into a blog) focusing on architectures of control, effectively covering the more coercive end of the behaviour-shaping spectrum, following on from research I did for my master’s degree (dissertation, 750k PDF). ‘Architectures of Control’ is a dramatic label — I adopted it from Lawrence Lessig — but as my research (and the site) expanded, fuelled by readers’ contributions and suggestions, it became clear that persuasion and guidance strategies were also very much worth including alongside those where absolute control is the intent.
Also, while most of the examples were fairly anti-user, generally serving some other entity against the user’s best interests, I saw no reason why these kinds of strategies necessarily needed to be used in such a negative way. There seemed plenty of potential to apply a similar kind of design thinking to behaviour change which would benefit the user directly, particularly in areas where a user’s interaction with a product or system has knock-on effects for society as well as the user him/herself.
Based on this line of thinking, my research (now as a doctoral student) has evolved into using Design with Intent (DwI) approaches to tackle the environmental impact of consumer products: Design for Sustainable Behaviour. As part of this, I’m attempting to develop and test a method for suggesting appropriate DwI techniques based on a range of different intended target behaviours — many ‘encouraging sustainable behaviour’ problems have analogues in other fields, and finding ways of applying this thinking in different contexts could lead to useful solutions (some of which will be tested quantitatively as part of the PhD).
While the PhD focuses on the environmentally sensitive design applications of DwI, I am very much continuing to research and analyse the whole field of using design to influence and shape user behaviour, and the site will reflect this. I hope it will become a useful resource for interaction designers, product designers, sustainable engineers or indeed anyone else interested in or involved with behaviour change, as well as the relationships between technology and society in general.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment.