CarbonCulture blog launch by Dan

CarbonCulture blog It's been quiet here, for reasons which will be explained later, but in the meantime I should mention that CarbonCulture (with whom I've been working for the past two years as part of the TSB-supported EMPOWER collaboration) has a new blog.

In anticipation of the forthcoming public launch of the CarbonCulture product, we're introducing some background on behaviour change approaches, energy use and environmental impact. The first few posts (as of today) introduce:

Your comments are very welcome. Over the next few months we'll build up the story of what we've done -- the approaches we've taken and what we've learned. There's some further background in this article from Public Sector Sustainability by Luke Nicholson, and a paper I presented at BECC 2011.

My jobs as research fellow (for WMG) and research assistant (for Brunel) on the project have now come to an end, but I'm continuing to provide some input to the project, as well as writing up some papers based on what we've learned (so far, a journal paper and a conference paper).

I'm proud to have been associated with what is one of the most empathy-driven user-centred behaviour change projects out there: a fascinating, blend of contextual user research, rapid iterations of new features and approaches, adapting to the needs and interests of a whole range of stakeholders, and getting to apply lots of the ideas that fed into Design with Intent in practical settings and seeing how effective they really are.

CarbonCulture energy display for Tate Modern CarbonCulture energy display for 10 Downing Street

Background to the project

CarbonCulture is a research-driven software platform designed to increase staff engagement in more sustainable behaviour at work, in areas such as HVAC and thermal comfort, building occupancy, transport modes and food choices. CO2 emissions from non-­domestic buildings, mainly workplaces, make up 18% of the UK's carbon footprint, and a combination of technology advances and behaviour change has the potential to make significant impact.

Funded by the Technology Strategy Board's Low Impact Buildings platform, Brunel Design at Brunel University and WMG at the University of Warwick have been working with More Associates to develop and trial CarbonCulture.

With the Department of Energy & Climate Change's offices in Whitehall as a pilot site, we have been applying methods from user-­centred design practice to understand diverse users' priorities, mental models of energy and decision-­making heuristics, and incorporating these insights into the development of the platform. The project comprised an ethnographic research phase, participatory design, and iterative trials; we've been both providing academic research input to the development of CarbonCulture, and using the platform itself as a research tool.

CarbonCulture also provides publicly accessible energy displays (both near-real-time and summary) for a number of major public buildings in London, including Tate Modern, 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.


Architecture, urbanism, design and behaviour: a brief review by Dan

by Dan Lockton Hollywood & Highland mall

Continuing the meta-auto-behaviour-change effort started here, I’m publishing a few extracts from my PhD thesis as I write it up (mostly from the literature review, and before any rigorous editing) as blog posts over the next few months. The idea of how architecture can be used to influence behaviour was central to this blog when it started, and so it's pleasing to revisit it, even if makes me realise how little I still know.

“There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives.” Winston Churchill, addressing the English Architectural Association, 1924

In designing and constructing environments in which people live and work, architects and planners are necessarily involved in influencing human behaviour. While Sommer (1969, p.3) asserted that the architect “in his training and practice, learns to look at buildings without people in them,” it is clear that from, for example, Howard's Garden Cities of To-morrow (1902), through Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine and La Ville radieuse, to the Smithsons' 'Streets in the sky', there has been a long-standing thread of recognition that the way people live their lives is directly linked to the designed environments in which they live. Whether the explicit intention to influence behaviour drives the design process—architectural determinism (Broady, 1966: see future blog post ‘POSIWID and determinism’)—or whether the behaviour consequences of design decisions are only revealed and considered as part of a post-occupancy evaluation (e.g. Zeisel, 2006) or by social scientists or psychologists studying the impact of a development, there are links between the design of the built environment and our behaviour, both individually and socially. Where there is an explicit intention to influence behaviour, the intended behaviours could relate (for example) to directing people for strategic reasons, or providing a particular ‘experience’, or for health and safety reasons, but they are often focused on influencing social interaction. Hillier et al (1987, p.233) find that “spatial layout in itself generates a field of probabilistic encounter, with structural properties that vary with the syntax of the layout.” Ittelson et al (1974, p.358) suggest that “All buildings imply at least some form of social activity stemming from both their intended function and the random encounters they may generate. The arrangement of partitions, rooms, doors, windows, and hallways serves to encourage or hinder communication and, to this extent, affects social interaction. This can occur at any number of levels and the designer is clearly in control to the degree that he plans the contact points and lanes of access where people come together. He might also, although with perhaps less assurance, decide on the desirability of such contact.”

“Designers often aspire to do more than simply create buildings that are new, functional and attractive—they promise that a new environment will change behaviours and attitudes” (Marmot, 2002, p.252). Where architects expressly announce their intentions and ability to influence behaviour, such as in Danish firm 3XN’s exhibition and book Mind Your Behaviour (3XN, 2010), the behaviours intended and techniques used can range from broad, high-level aspirational strategies such as communal areas “creating the potential for involvement, interaction and knowledge sharing” in a workplace (3XN, 2010) to specific tactics, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s occasional use of “very confining corridors” for people to walk along “so that when they entered an open space the openness and light would enhance their experience” (Ittelson et al, 1974, p.346). An appreciation of both broad strategies and specific tactics is valuable: from the perspective of a designer whose agency may only extend to redesign of certain elements of a space, product or interface, it is the specific tactical techniques which are likely to be the most immediately applicable, but the broader guiding strategies can help set the vision in the first place. For example, the ‘conditions for city diversity’ outlined by Jacobs (1961)—broad strategies for understanding aspects of urban behaviour—have influenced generations of urbanists.

Following the influence of Christopher Alexander (Alexander et al, 1975, 1977; Alexander, 1979), such strategies and tactics may be expressed architecturally in terms of patterns, which describe “a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice” (Alexander et al, 1977). The concept of patterns, and Alexander et al’s A Pattern Language (1977) will be examined in detail in a future thesis extract, for their form, philosophy and impact, but, as an example, it is worth drawing out a few of the patterns which actually address directly influencing behaviour architecturally (Table 1). Among others, Frederick (2007) and Day (2002) both also outline a range of architectural patterns, some with similarities to Alexander et al’s, including some specifically relating to influencing behaviour.

Chepstow, Monmouthshire Two examples of pattern 53? Chepstow, Monmouthshire (restored 1524) and Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven (c.2000) Gateway at Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven

Table 1. Summaries of a few of Alexander et al’s patterns (1977) which specifically address influencing behaviour, simplified into ‘ends’ and ‘means’.





Activity nodes

To “create concentrations of people in a community”

Facilities must be grouped densely round very small public squares which can function as nodes—with all pedestrian movement in the community organized to pass through these nodes”


Main gateways

To influence inhabitants of a part of a town to identify it as a distinct entity

Mark every boundary in the city which has important human meaning—the boundary of a building cluster, a neighborhood, a precinct—by great gateways where the major entering paths cross the boundary”


Connected play

To “support the formation of spontaneous play groups” for children

Lay out common land, paths, gardens and bridges so that groups of at least 64 households are connected by a swath of land that does not cross traffic. Establish this land as the connected play space for the children in these households”


Farmhouse kitchen

To help “all the members of the family… to accept, fully, the fact that taking care of themselves by cooking is as much a part of life as taking care of themselves by eating

Make the kitchen bigger than usual, big enough to include the ‘family room’ space, and place it near the center of the commons, not so far back in the house as an ordinary kitchen. Make it large enough to hold a good table and chairs, some soft and some hard, with counters and stove and sink around the edge of the room; and make it a bright and comfortable room”


Small meeting rooms

To encourage smaller group meetings, which encourage people to contribute and make their point of view heard

Make at least 70 per cent of all meeting rooms really small—for 12 people or less. Locate them in the most public parts of the building, evenly scattered among the workplaces”

Layout of physical elements

Practically, most architectural patterns for influencing behaviour involve, in one way or another, the physical arrangement of building elements—inside or outside—or a change in material properties. In each case, there is the possibility of changing people’s perceptions of what behaviour is possible or appropriate, and the possibility of actually forcing some behaviour to occur or not occur (see future article ‘Affordances, constraints and choice architecture’). These are not independent alternatives: the perception that some behaviour is possible or impossible can be a result of learning ‘the hard way’ in the past.

Barrier on the London Underground preventing running down stairs onto track Barrier on the London Underground (Baker Street, from memory), preventing people running down stairs directly onto the track. Most stairs don't open straight onto the platform like this.

The physical arrangement of elements can be broken down into different aspects of positioning and layout—putting elements in particular places to encourage or discourage people’s interaction with them, putting them in people’s way to prevent access to somewhere, putting them either side of people to channel or direct them in a particular way (e.g. staggered pedestrian crossings which aim to direct pedestrians to face oncoming traffic; Department for Transport, 1995), hiding them to remove the perception that they are there, splitting elements up or combining them so that they can be used by different numbers of people at once, or angling them so that some actions are easier than others (termed slanty design by Beale (2007), both physically and in metaphorical application in interfaces). Urbanists such as Whyte (1980) have catalogued, in colourful, intricate detail the effects that the layouts and features of built environments have on people’s behaviour—why some areas become popular, others not so, with whom, and why, with recommendations for how to improve things, in contrast to work such as Goffman (1963) which focuses on the social contexts of public behaviour in urban environments.

The layouts of shops, hotels, casinos and theme parks, especially larger developments where there is scope to plan more ambitiously, can also make use of multiple aspects of positioning and layout to influence and control shoppers’ paths—Stenebo (2010) discusses IKEA’s carefully planned (and continually refined) “fairyland of adventures” which routes visitors through the store; Shearing and Stenning (1984) examine how Disney World embeds “[c]ontrol strategies in both environmental features and structural relations,” many to do with positioning of physical features; while Underhill (1999, 2004), formerly one of Whyte’s students, describes how his company, Envirosell, uses observation approach to understand and redesign shopping behaviour across a wide range of store types and shopping malls themselves, much of which comes down to intelligently repositioning elements such as mirrors, basket stacks, signage and seating. Poundstone (2010) cites a study by Sorensen Associates which used active RFID tags fitted to shopping trolleys to determine that US shoppers taking an anticlockwise route around supermarkets spend on average $2.00 more per trip; the suggestion is that stores with the entrance on the right will be more likely to prompt this anticlockwise movement.

Changes in material properties can involve drawing attention to particular behaviour (e.g. rumble strips on a road to encourage drivers to slow down: Harvey, 1992), or making it more or less comfortable to do an activity (e.g., as Katyal (2002, p.1043) notes, “fast food restaurants use hard chairs that quickly grow uncomfortable so that customers rapidly turn over”). The application of some of these physical positioning and layout and material property ideas to a particular social issue is described in the blog post 'Towards a Design with Intent method v.0.1' from 2008.

Some seating at Wessex Water's HQ, Bath

Often combining positioning and material properties, the effect of different seating types and layouts on behaviour comprises a significant area of study in itself, with, for example, work by Steinzor (1950), Hearn (1957), Sommer (1969) and Koneya (1976) helping to establish patterns of likely interaction between people occurring with arrangements of chairs around tables, and overall room layouts in classrooms and mental hospitals. Sommer’s design intervention in the dayroom of an elderly ladies’ ward at a state hospital in Canada—by reducing the number of couches around the walls and adding tables and chairs in the centre of the room, with flowers and magazines—led to major increases in the amount of conversation and interaction between residents.

Seating at LAX

Osmond (1959) introduced the terms sociofugal and sociopetal to describe spaces which drive people apart and together, respectively; Sommer (1969, 1974) notes that airports are often among the most sociofugal spaces, largely because of the fixed, single-direction seating and “sterile” decor: “Many other buildings… such as mental hospitals and jails, also discourage contact between people, but none does this as effectively as the airport… In practice the long corridors and the cold, bare waiting areas of the typical airport are more sociofugal than the isolation wing of the state penitentiary.” (Sommer, 1974: p.72). Hall’s concept of proxemics (e.g. Hall, 1966) provides a treatment of personal space, its effects on behaviour, and its significance in different physical spaces as well as in different cultures. The different ‘distance zones’ identified by Hall—intimate, personal, social and public—have implications for the design process: “If one looks at human beings in the way that the early slave traders did, conceiving of their space requirements simply in terms of the limits of the body, one pays very little attention to the effects of crowding. If, however, one sees man surrounded by a series of invisible bubbles which have measurable dimensions, architecture can be seen in a new light. It is then possible to conceive that people can be cramped by the spaces in which they have to live and work. They may find themselves forced into behavior, relationships or emotional outlets that are overly stressful” (Hall, 1966, p.129).

Trellick Tower from the Great Western Main Line

Emergence, desire lines and predicting behaviour

“All buildings are predictions. All predictions are wrong”. Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn, 1994, p. 178.

“I built skyscrapers for people to live in there and now they messed them up—disgusting”. Ernő Goldfinger, commenting on tabloid reports of violent crime in the Trellick Tower, above (quoted in Open University, 2001)

In How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand (1994) contrasts ‘Low Road’ architecture designed to permit adaptation by users, with visionary ‘High Road’ architectural plans which seek to define at the design stage the future behaviour and lifestyles of buildings’ users. High Road plans often ‘fail’ in this sense, unable to anticipate future needs or usage patterns (as Ittelson et al (1974, p. 357) put it, “we are all living in the relics of the past”), while Low Road architecture can cope with changing requirements, appropriation (Salovaara, 2008) and emergent behaviour. The stereotype of architect as a 'High Road' planner—perhaps living in the penthouse at the top of the tower block he has designed—resonates in both fact (e.g. Ernő Goldfinger's comment quoted above) and fiction (e.g. Anthony Royal in J.G. Ballard's High Rise (1975).*

The parallels of the the High/Low Road approaches with the design and use of other systems—in particular software, but perhaps also economic and political systems in general—are evident throughout Brand’s book, although never explicitly stated as such; there are also parallels in planning at a level above that of buildings themselves, such as the clash in New York (Flint, 2009) between the bottom-up approach to urbanism favoured by Jacobs (1961) and the top-down approach of Robert Moses. While it will unfortunately not be considered in detail in this thesis, the emerging power of ubiquitous computing, when integrated intelligently into physical space—"city as operating system" (Gittins, 2007)—could permit a kind of Low Road 'read/write urbanism' (Greenfield & Shepard, 2007) in which the 'city users' themselves are able to augment and alter the meanings, affordances and even fabrics of their surroundings.

A cowpath at Brunel A desire path or cowpath is forming across this grass area in the John Crank memorial garden, Brunel University...

One emergent behaviour-related concept arising from architecture and planning which has also found application in human-computer interaction is the idea of desire lines, desire paths or cowpaths. The usual current use of the term (often attributed, although apparently in error, to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1964)) is to describe paths worn by pedestrians across spaces such as parks, between buildings or to avoid obstacles—“the foot-worn paths that sometimes appear in a landscape over time” (Mathes, 2004) and which become self-reinforcing as subsequent generations of pedestrians follow what becomes an obvious path. Throgmorton & Eckstein (2000) also discuss Chicago transportation engineers’ use of ‘desire lines’ to describe maps of straight-line origin-to-destination journeys across the city, in the process revealing assumptions about the public’s ‘desire’ to undertake these journeys. In either sense, desire lines (along with use-marks (Burns, 2007)) could perhaps, using economic terminology, be seen as a form of revealed user preference (Beshears et al, 2008) or at least revealed choice, with a substantial normative quality.

As such, there is potential for observing the formation of desire lines and then ‘codifying’ them in order to provide paths that users actually need, rather than what is assumed they will need. As Myhill (2004) puts it, “[a]n optimal way to design pathways in accordance with natural human behaviour, is to not design them at all. Simply plant grass seed and let the erosion inform you about where the paths need to be. Stories abound of university campuses being constructed without any pathways to them.” Myhill goes on to suggest that companies which apply this idea in the design of goods and services, designing systems to permit desire lines to emerge and then paying attention to them, will succeed in a process of ‘Normanian Natural Selection’ (after Don Norman’s work).

A paved cowpath at Brunel ...whereas this one has been 'paved' after pedestrians wore a definite path.

In human-computer interaction, this principle has become known as ‘Pave the cowpaths’—“look where the paths are already being formed by behavior and then formalize them, rather than creating some kind of idealized path structure that ignores history and tradition and human nature and geometry and ergonomics and common sense” (Crumlish & Malone, 2009, p.17). Particularly with websites, analytics software can take the place of the worn grass, and in the process reveal extra data such as demographic information about users, and more about their actual desires or intention in engaging in the process (e.g. Google is a “database of intentions”, according to Battelle (2003)). This allows clustering of behaviour paths and even investigation of users’ mental models of site structure. The counter-argument is that blindly paving cowpaths can enshrine inefficient behaviours in the longer-term, locking users and organisations into particular ways of doing things which were never optimal in the first place (Arace, 2006)—form freezing function, to paraphrase Stewart Brand (1994, p.157).

From the point of view of influencing behaviour rather than simply reflecting it, the principle of paving the cowpaths could be applied strategically: identify the desire lines and paths of particular users—perhaps a group which is already performing the desired behaviour—and then, by formalising this, making it easier or more salient or in some way obviously normative, encourage other users to follow suit.

*It is worth differentiating, though, between a visionary approach which considers human behaviour and sets out to change it, and the approach attributed to some other treatments of the 'visionary architect' personality, in which human behaviour is simply ignored or relegated as being secondary to the vision of the building itself. In fiction, Ayn Rand's Howard Roark (in The Fountainhead, 1943) is perhaps an archetype; Sommer's architect who "learns to look at buildings without people in them" quoted above is perhaps based on real instances of this approach.

Westfield Stratford City, with Olympic Athletes' Village under construction, March 2010 The ticket hall of Stratford City railway station, London, with Westfield logo and the Olympic Athletes' Village under construction in the background, March 2010

The politics of architecture, power and control

“I was aware that I could be watched from above…and that it was possible to go much higher—to become one of the watchers—but I didn’t see how it could be done. The architecture embodied a political message: There are people higher than you, and they can watch you, follow you—and, theoretically, you can join them, become one of them. Unfortunately you don’t know how.” Geoff Manaugh, The BLDG BLOG Book (2009, p.17)

Architecture can serve as a regulatory force (Shah and Kesan, 2007) and has been used to influence and control public behaviour through embodying power in a number of ways. Direct use of architecture to change the economic or demographic make-up of areas ranges from policies of shopping centres and Business Improvement Districts to shift the social class of visitors to an area* (Minton, 2009), to Depression-era Tennessee Valley Authority’s mandate to revitalise impoverished areas through massive development programmes (Culvahouse, 2007), to government-driven use of settlements to occupy or colonise territories. In this latter context, Segal and Weizman (2003, p. 19), referring to Israel, comment that “[i]n an environment where architecture and planning are systematically instrumentalized… planning decisions do not often follow criteria of economic sustainability, ecology or efficiency of services, but are rather employed to serve strategic and political agendas”.

Vale (2008) discusses Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s 1791 layout of Washington, DC, often seen as physically reifying the ‘separation of powers’ principle contained in the US Constitution, by separating the buildings housing the branches of government, although Vale notes that L’Enfant does not explicitly mention this as his intention. Along perhaps similar lines, Stewart Brand (1994, p.3) mentions Churchill’s 1943 request that “the bomb-damaged Parliament be rebuilt exactly as it was before… It was to the good, he insisted, that the [House of Commons] Chamber was too small to seat all the members (so great occasions were standing-room occasions), and that its shape forced members to sit on either one side or the other, unambiguously of one party or the other.” Indeed, Churchill’s ‘crossing the floor’ in 1904 (and again in the 1920s) perhaps relied on the physical layout of the chamber for its impact. Ittelson et al (1974, p.139) also note that “[t]he eight months of deliberations in 1969, preceding the Paris Peace Talks, were largely centered on the issue of the shape of the table to be used in the negotiations.”

Internal building layouts are analysed for their ‘power’ implications by Dovey (2008), who uses a system of ‘space syntax analysis’ developed by Hillier and Hanson (1984) to examine diverse buildings such as Albert Speer’s Berlin Chancellery, the Forbidden City of Beijing, and the Metro Centre shopping mall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. One recurring pattern in political buildings is the intentional use of something similar to what Alexander et al (1977, p.610), in a different context, call ‘intimacy of gradient’—a “diplomatic promenade” (Dovey, 2008, p. 65) selectively revealing a sequence of anterooms to visitors, their permitted progress through the structure (the deepest level being the president or monarch’s private study) calculated both to reflect their status and instil the requisite level of awe. Nicoletta (2003) looks at the use of architecture to exert social control in Shaker dwelling houses, e.g. the use of separate entrances and staircases for men and women, and the lack of routes through the house which did not result in observation by other members of the family.

City layouts have been used strategically to try to prevent disorder and make it easier to put down. Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s “militaristically planned Paris” (Hatherley, 2008, p. 11), remodelled for Louis Napoléon (later Napoléon III) after 1848, had “[t]he true goal of…secur[ing] the city against civil war. He wanted to make the erection of barricades in Paris impossible for all time… Widening the streets is designed to make the erection of barricades impossible, and new streets are to furnish the shortest route between the barracks and the workers’ districts.” (Benjamin, 1935/1999, p. 12). The Haussmann project also involved “the planning of straight avenues as a method of crowd control (artillery could fire down them at barricaded masses)” (Rykwert, 2000, p.91). Scott (1998, p.59) likens the "logic behind the reconstruction of Paris" to the process of transforming old-growth forests into "scientific forests designed for unitary fiscal management"—part of which involves, as Scott emphasies throughout his book Seeing Like a State, the idea of making a space (and the people in it) legible to whoever is in power by removing or simplifying inconsistencies, anomalies and local practices to 'tame' potentially dangerous ceintures sauvages. Legibility affords measurement and standardisation, and these (from Domesday Book to the standardisation of surnames, to biometric IDs) afford modelling, regulation and control. Drawing on Hacking (1990), Scott (1998, p.92) suggests that it is "but a small step from a simplified description of society to a design and manipulation of society, with improvement in mind. If one could reshape nature to design a more suitable forest, why not reshape society to create a more suitable population?"

Returning to the specifics of architectural schemes, New York ‘master builder’ Robert Moses’ low parkway bridges on Long Island are often mentioned in a similar vein to Haussmann's Paris (Caro, 1975; Winner, 1986). These had the effect of preventing buses (and by implication poorer people, often minorities) using the parkways to visit the Jones Beach State Park—another of Moses' projects. However, Joerges (1999) questions details of the intentionality involved, suggesting that the story as presented by Winner is more of a parable (Gillespie, 2007, p. 72) about the embodiment of politics in artefacts—an exhortation to recognise that “specific features in the design or arrangement of a device or system could provide a convenient means of establishing patterns of power and authority in a given setting,” (Winner, 1986)—than a real example of architecture being used intentionally to discriminate against certain groups (see also the forthcoming blog post ‘POSIWID and determinism’). Nevertheless, Flint (2009, p.44) suggests in his book on Jane Jacobs' battles with Moses over New York planning, that, at least in his earlier years, "Moses strove to model himself after Baron Haussmann".

*Minton (2009, p.45) interviews a Business Improvement District manager in the UK who tells her explicitly that “High margins come with ABC1s, low margins with C2DEs. My job is to create an environment which will bring in more ABC1s.”

Pig ears on the South Bank, London 'Pig ear' skate stoppers near City Hall, London

Disciplinary architecture and design against crime

“Where the homeless are ejected from business and retail areas by such measures as curved bus benches, window-ledge spikes and doorway sprinkler systems, so skaters encounter rough-textured surfaces, spikes and bumps added to handrails, blocks of concrete placed at the foot of banks, chains across ditches and steps, and new, unridable surfaces such as gravel and sand.” Iain Borden, Skateboarding, Space and the City (2001, p.254)

Perhaps difficult to extract from the political dimension of architecture is the notion of disciplinary architecture, covering everything from designed measures such as anti-homeless park benches to prison design, via Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1787) and Foucault’s ‘technologies of punishment’ (1977). Howell (2001) notes that this is often framed as ‘defending’ the general public against ‘undesirable’ behaviour by other members of the public—in this particular case again, measures to make skateboarding more difficult. Similar measures may be installed by members of the public to defend their own properties: Flusty (1997, p. 48) classifies “five species” of “interdictory spaces—spaces designed to intercept and repel or filter would-be users”, many of which occur frequently in residential contexts as well as public spaces: stealthy space—areas which have been deliberately concealed from general view; slippery space—spaces with no apparent means of approach; crusty space—space that cannot be accessed because of obstructions; prickly space—space which cannot be occupied comfortably due to measures inhibiting walking, sitting or standing; and jittery space—space which is constantly under surveillance (or threatened surveillance). Some of the ways of achieving these species of space will be familiar from other examples discussed in this thesis, particularly prickly space.

Prikka strips Prikka strips, a popular brand of add-on DIY plastic spikes for your wall.

'Design against crime' has recently received significant attention in the UK via initiatives such as the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central Saint Martins (e.g. Ekblom, 1997; Gamman & Pascoe, 2004; Gamman & Thorpe, 2007) whose work has addressed some high-profile areas such as bicycle theft and bag theft in restaurants and bars (AHRC, 2008) through innovative product design interventions taking account of the environmental contexts in which crimes occur. While the focus may be on 'better' products (as was a much earlier programme by the Design Council focusing on design against vandalism (Sykes, 1979)), the parallel field of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) has developed from the early 1970s to date, focusing on redesigning architectural elements to discourage particular behaviours. In the UK, compliance with an Association of Chief Police Officers’ CPTED initiative, ‘Secured by Design’—run by ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives Ltd—has, according to Minton (2009, p.71), become a condition of planning permission for some large residential developments, leading to the situation where new estates are required to be “surrounded by walls with sharp steel pins or broken glass on top of them, CCTV and only one gate into the estate.”

Crowe (2000) provides a practical guide to implementing CPTED with diagrams and ‘design directives’ for a wide variety of spaces, including schools and student residences. Poyner (1983), in a guide which is effectively A Pattern Language for CPTED, outlines 31 patterns addressing different types of crime in different settings—for example, “4.7 Access to rear of house: There should be no open access from the front to the rear of a house. Access might be restricted to full-height locked gates,” addresses burglary and break-ins. Many of Poyner’s patterns make use of the principle of natural surveillance, described in Oscar Newman’s influential book Defensible Space: People and Design in the Violent City* (1972). Natural surveillance implies designing spaces to afford “surveillance opportunities for residents and their agents” (Newman, 1972, p. 78)—effectively, designing environments so that building users are able to observe others’ activities when outside the home, and feel observed themselves (a concept which, applied in the wider context of digital communications and social media, might be termed peerveillance**). There should be parallels with Jacobs’ (1961) concept of ‘eyes on the street’—although as Minton (2009) points out, implementing natural surveillance via enclosed, gated communities where strangers will necessarily stand out means that the residents can become isolated, targets even for burglars who know that it is unlikely there will be any passers-by (or even passing police) to see their activities.

Katyal (2002) provides a comprehensive academic review of ‘Architecture as Crime Control’, addressed to a legal and social policy-maker audience, but also interesting because of a follow-up article taking the same approach to examine digital architecture (see future article). One point to which Katyal repeatedly returns is the concept of architectural solutions as entities which subtly reinforce or embody social norms (desirable ones, from the point of view of law enforcement) rather than necessarily enforce them: “Even the best social codes are quite useless if it is impossible to observe whether people comply with them. Architecture, by facilitating interaction and monitoring by members of a community, permits social norms to have greater impact. In this way, the power of architecture to influence social norms can even eclipse that of law, for law faces obvious difficulties when it attempts to regulate social interaction directly” (Katyal, 2002, p. 1075).

*‘Defensible space’ covers “restructur[ing] the physical layout of communities to allow residents to control the areas around their homes.” (Newman, 1996) **The author used ‘Peerveillance’ for a pattern based on this concept in DwI v.1.0, at the time (March 2010) finding only one previous use of the term, on Twitter, by Alex Halavais. As of May 2011, the tweet is no longer findable via either Twitter or Google searches.

Implications for designers

▶ Designed environments influence people’s behaviour in a variety of ways, and some have been designed expressly with this intention, often for political or crime prevention reasons

▶ This can range from high-level visions of influencing wider social or community behaviours, to very specific techniques applied to influence particular behaviours in a particular context; the use of patterns facilitates re-use of techniques wherever a similar problem recurs

▶ Most patterns involve either the physical arrangement of building elements—positioning, angling, splitting up, hiding, etc—or a change in material properties, either to change people’s perceptions of what behaviour is possible or appropriate, perhaps by reinforcing or embodying social norms, or to force certain behaviour to occur or not occur

▶ There are also patterns around aspects of surveillance—designing layouts which facilitate or prevent visibility of activity between groups of people

▶ In practice, patterns may be applied in combination to create different kinds of space with different effects on behaviour

▶ There is potential for ‘paving the cowpaths’ strategically through design, identifying the paths of particular users—perhaps a group which is already performing the desired behaviour—and then, by formalising this, making it easier or more salient or in some way obviously normative, encourage other users to follow suit

▶ By affecting so completely the way in which people spend their lives, political or police attempts to control behaviour through the design of environments can be controversial

▶ Some concepts related to influencing behaviour in the built environment may be transposed to other designed systems and contexts


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Boardwalk at Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven Reminiscent of a scene from Ballard's Super-Cannes, the Philips High Tech Campus also includes this lake and boardwalk, perhaps affording breakout meetings and secret discussions away from the earshot of office colleagues, although in full view of the surrounding buildings.

User-centred design for energy efficiency in buildings: TSB competition by Dan

The deadline's fast approaching (mid-day 17th Dec) for the UK Technology Strategy Board's 'User-centred design for energy efficiency in buildings' competition [PDF] - there's an introduction from Fionnuala Costello here. This is an exciting initiative which aims to bring together (in a 5-day 'sandpit') people from different disciplines and different sectors to address the problems of influencing user behaviour to improve the energy efficiency of offices and other non-domestic buildings, and generate commercially viable collaborative solutions to develop, some of which will then be part-funded by the TSB. Fionnuala's blog, People in Buildings has some great posts and discussions exploring aspects of how human factors and technology together might be used to help people use energy more effectively. If you or your organisation are interested in these kinds of issues - and using design to address them - it'd be well worth getting an application in over the next few days.

Designed environments as learning systems by Dan

West London from Richmond Park - Trellick Tower in the centre How much of designing an environment is consciously about influencing how people use it? And how much of that influence is down to users learning what the environment affords them, and acting accordingly?

The first question's central what this blog's been about over the last four years (with 'products', 'systems', 'interfaces' and so on variously standing in for 'environment'), but many of the examples I've used, from anti-sit features to bathrooms and cafés designed to speed up user throughput, only reveal the architect's (presumed) behaviour-influencing intent in hindsight, i.e. by reviewing them and trying to understand, if it isn't obvious, what the motivation is behind a particular design feature. While there are examples where the intent is explicitly acknowledged, such as crime prevention through environmental design, and traffic management, it can still cause surprise when a behaviour-influencing agenda is revealed.

Investigating what environmental and ecological psychology have to say about this, a few months ago I came across The Organization of Spatial Stimuli, an article by Raymond G. Studer, published in 1970 [1] - it's one of the few explicit calls for a theory of designing environments to influence user behaviour, and it raises some interesting issues:

"The nature of the environmental designer's problem is this: A behavioral system has been specified (within the constraints imposed by the particular human participants and by the goals of the organization of which they are members.) The participants are not presently emitting the specified behaviors, otherwise there would be no problem. It is necessary that they do emit these behaviors if their individual and collective goals are to be realized. The problem then is to bring about the acquisition or modification of behaviors towards the specified states (without in any way jeopardizing their general well-being in the process). Such a change in state we call learning. Designed environments are basically learning systems, arranged to bring about and maintain specified behavioral topologies. Viewed as such, stimulus organization becomes a more clearly directed task. The question then becomes not how can stimuli be arranged to stimulate, but how can stimuli be arranged to bring about a requisite state of behavioral affairs. ... [E]vents which have traditionally been regarded as the ends in the design process, e.g. pleasant, exciting, stimulating, comfortable, the participant's likes and dislikes, should be reclassified. They are not ends at all, but valuable means which should be skilfully ordered to direct a more appropriate over-all behavioral texture. They are members of a class of (designed environmental) reinforcers. These aspects must be identified before behavioral effects of the designed environment can be fully understood."

Now, I think it's probably rare nowadays for architects or designers to talk of design features as 'stimuli', even if they are intended to influence behaviour. Operant conditioning and B.F. Skinner's behaviourism are less fashionable than they once were. But the "designed environments are learning systems" point Studer makes can well be applied beyond simply 'reinforcing' particular behaviours.

Think how powerful social norms and even framing can be at influencing our behaviour in environments - the sober environment of a law court gives (most of) us a different range of perceived affordances to our own living room (social norms, mediated by architecture) - and that's surely something we learn. Frank Lloyd Wright intentionally designed dark, narrow corridors leading to large, bright open rooms (e.g. in the Yamamura House) so that the contrast - and people's experience - was heightened (framing, of a sort) - but this effect would probably be lessened by repeated exposure. It still influenced user behaviour though, even if only the first few times, but the memory of the effect that such a room had those first few times probably lasted a lifetime. Clearly, the process of forming a mental model about how to use a product, or how to behave in an environment, or how to behave socially, is about learning, and the design of the systems around us does educate us, in one way or another.

Stewart Brand's classic How Buildings Learn (watch the series too) perhaps suggests (among other insights) an extension of the concept: if, when we learn what our environment affords us, this no longer suits our needs, the best architecture may be that which we can adapt, rather than being constrained by the behavioural assumptions designed into our environments by history.

I'm not an architect, though, or a planner, and - as I've mentioned a few times on the blog - it would be very interesting to know, from people who are: to what extent are notions of influencing behaviour taught as part of architectural training? This series of discussion board posts suggests that the issue is definitely there for architecture students, but is it framed as a conscious, positive process (e.g. "funnel pedestrians past the shops"), a reactionary one (e.g. "use pebbled paving to make it painful for hippies to congregate"), one of educating users through architectural features (as in Studer's suggestion), or as something else entirely?

[1] Studer, R.G. 'The Organization of Spatial Stimuli.' In Pastalan, L.A. and Carson, D.H. (eds.), Spatial Behavior of Older People. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1970.

Dan Lockton

What's the deal with angled steps? by Dan

Angled StepsIt's a simple question, really, to any readers with experience in urban planning and specifying architectural features: what is the reasoning behind positioning steps at an angle such as this set (left and below) leading down to the Queen's Walk near London Bridge station? Obviously one reason is to connect two walkways that are offset slightly where there is no space to have a perpendicular set of steps, but are they ever used strategically? They're much more difficult to run down or up than conventionally perpendicular steps, which would seem like it might help constrain escaping thieves, or make it less likely that people will be able to run from one walkway to another without slowing down and watching their step.

Like the configuration of spiral staircases in mediaeval castles to favour a defender running down the steps anticlockwise, holding a sword in his right hand, over the attacker running up to meet him (e.g. as described here), the way that town marketplaces were often built with pinch points at each end to make it more difficult for animals (or thieves) to escape, or even the 'enforced reverence' effect of the very steep steps at Ta Keo in Cambodia, are angled steps and staircases ever specified deliberately with this intent?

Angled Steps

The first time I thought of this was confronting these steps (below) leading from the shopping centre next to Waverley Station in Edinburgh a couple of years ago: they seemed purpose-built to slow fleeing shoplifters, but I did consider that it might just be my tendency to see everything with a 'Design with Intent' bias - a kind of conspiracy bias, ascribing to design intent that which is perhaps more likely to be due to situational factors (a kind of fundamental attribution error for design), or inferring the intention behind a design by looking at its results!

What's your angle on the steps?

Angled Steps

Staggering insight by Dan

Staggered crossing in Bath I've mentioned a few times, perhaps more often in presentations than on the blog, the fact that guidelines for the design of pedestrian crossings in the UK [PDF] recommend that where a crossing is staggered, pedestrians should be routed so that they have to face traffic, thus increasing the likelihood of noticing oncoming cars, and indeed of oncoming drivers noticing the pedestrians:

5.2.5 Staggered crossings on two-way roads should have a left handed stagger so that pedestrians on the central refuge are guided to face the approaching traffic stream.

When I gave this example of Design with Intent at Lancaster, the discussion - led, I think, by Lucy Suchman and Patricia Clough - turned to how this arrangement inevitably formalised and reinforced the embedded hegemony of the motor car in society, and so on: that the motorist is privileged over the pedestrian and the pedestrian must submit by watching out for cars, rather than the other way around.

Now, all that is arguably true - I had seen this example as merely a clever, sensible way to use design to influence user behaviour for safety, for everyone's benefit (both pedestrians and drivers) without it costing any more than, say, a crossing staggered the opposite way round - but this is, maybe, the nature of this whole field of Design with Intent: lots of disciplines potentially have perspectives on it and what it means. What a traffic engineer or an ergonomist or a mistake-proofer sees as a safety measure, a sociologist may see as a designed-in power relation. What Microsoft saw as a tool for helping users was seen as patronising and annoying (at least by the most vociferous users). It's all interesting, because it all broadens the number of interpretations and considerations applied to everything, and - if I'm honest - force me to think on more levels about every example.

Multiple lenses are helpful to designers otherwise stuck at whatever focal length the client's prescribed.

Back to the crossings, though: the above crossing in Bath is a bit unusual in how it's arranged with so many control panels for pedestrians. But in general, with simple Pelican and Puffin crossings in the UK, there is a design feature even more obvious, which only struck me* the same day I photographed the above crossing in Bath: the pedestrian signal control panel is usually also to the right of where pedestrians stand waiting to cross, i.e. (with UK driving on the left), in order to press the button, pedestrians have to turn to face the oncoming traffic.

The guidelines actually mention this as helping people with poor vision, but it would seem that it really assists all users, even if only slightly. It means you can watch the traffic as you decide whether or not you actually need to press the button, and will be more likely to be standing in a position where you can see the oncoming traffic at the point when you walk out into the road.

5.1.7 To assist blind and partially sighted pedestrians, as they approach the crossing, the primary push button/indicator panel should normally be located on the right hand side. The alignment should encourage them to face oncoming vehicles. The centre of the push button should be between 1.0 and 1.1 metres above the footway level.

This is the sort of 'hidden' intentional, strategic design detailing which fascinates me. It is obvious, it is quotidian, but it's also thoughtful.

Staggered crossing in Bath

*Looking back through my notebooks, I see that someone actually mentioned this to me at a seminar at Sheffield Hallam in September 2007 but I forgot about it: many thanks to whoever it was, and I should be better at reading through my notes next time!

Anti-homeless 'stools' by Dan

Bus stop stools, Honolulu. Image from Stuart Candy of the brilliant Sceptical Futuryst let me know about authorities in Honolulu replacing benches with round 'stools' to prevent homeless people sleeping at bus stops (above image from Honolulu Advertiser story):

So far, the city has spent about $11,000 on the seating initiative, removing benches and installing 55 stools at 12 bus stops in urban Honolulu and Kane'ohe. Wayne Yoshioka, city Department of Transportation Services director, said the city will continue the program on a "case-by-case" basis in response to rider complaints.

"The benches were being used as makeshift beds by many people that were out there," Yoshioka said. "In an effort to provide areas for people to sit, but still discouraging people from sleeping, we started replacing benches with stools."

He added the issue is a "delicate one" that requires sensitivity toward the homeless who are being displaced from stops. ... The City Council is also considering a ban on sleeping or lying down at city bus stops, though that measure has been stalled for several months.

For its part, the city says its effort to reclaim everything from parks to beaches to bus stops is about making sure everyone has equal access to public spaces. City officials acknowledge that the homeless population in the Islands, which advocates say could increase in the worsening economy, is one of the most hard-to-solve social problems facing the state. But they also contend that the city has a duty to make sure public spaces can be used by all.

Doran Porter, executive director of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, disagrees with the city's approach, saying it's dealing with symptoms — not the problem. ... Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless, said cities should concentrate more on providing shelter and services for the homeless and less on moving them from bus stops.

"It's a misguided effort," he said, of the Honolulu initiative. ... Roger Morton, president and general manager of Oahu Transit Services, which operates TheBus for the city, said bus riders have a right to expect seating at stops. He added that seating is at a premium these days with buses so full ... He said transit authorities across the country are increasingly buying "lie-down-unfriendly furniture" to keep seats open for bus riders.

The round stools look interesting; I'm not sure that (if you didn't know otherwise) they would immediately suggest that that's where you're supposed to sit, though I suppose it wouldn't take long to figure out. But apart from preventing people lying down, they also prevent people sitting next to each other. Friends, lovers, parents with young children all now have to sit separately (or on each other's laps). That's OK when there are stools in line close together, but what if they're occupied? You can't ask people to 'budge up' when the stools aren't big enough for more than one person at a time.

As people have suggested a number of times when we've discussed unfriendly benches before on the blog, some kind of lightweight guerilla seating apparatus might be useful, either cardboard or foam like Sarah Ross's wonderful Archisuits.

Board placed across 
stools to afford lying down etc

Archisuit by Sarah Ross

{In|Ex}clusive Design by Dan

Spikes and rail, Bradford-on-Avon Giving with one hand, and taking away with the other.

The juxtaposition of hand rails and anti-sit spikes outside this church in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire suggests a particular configuration of design priorities: helping people climb the steps, but forbidding anyone sitting on the wall.

Are the targets different groups of people? We might think so: older people may have more difficulty climbing the steps, and so be more likely to need hand rails, and younger people might be more likely to be 'hanging around' outside, and thus 'need' to be 'discouraged'. This might be a simple case of discriminatory architecture, aimed at excluding one group while welcoming another.

But then older people like sitting down too. People in general like sitting down. Is this a case of cutting off your nose to spite own face? Whatever the 'backstory' is, the intent behind the different features, and the decision-making process (the spikes look older than the rails) would be interesting to know.

Spikes and rail, Bradford-on-Avon

Spikes and rail, Bradford-on-Avon

Spikes and rail, Bradford-on-Avon

Skinner and the Mousewrap by Dan

Mousewrap -, an interesting interface design experiment by Alex Frank, included this amusing idea, the Mousewrap, to 'train' users not to click any more "through physical pain".

It did make me think: is the use of anti-sit spikes on window sills, ledges, and so on, or anti-climb spikes on walls, intended primarily as a Skinnerian operant conditioning method (punishment - i.e. getting spiked - leading to decrease in the behaviour), or as a perceived affordance method (we see that it looks uncomfortable to sit down, so we don't do it)? How do deterrents like this actually work?

It might seem a subtle difference, and in practice it probably doesn't matter; it's probably a bit of both, in fact. Most people will be discouraged by seeing the spikes, and for the few who aren't, they'll learn after getting spiked.

But on what level do anti-pigeon spikes work? Do pigeons perceive the lack of 'comfort' affordance? Or do they try and perch and only then 'learn'? How similar does the spike (or whatever) have to be to others the animal has seen? Do animals (and humans) only learn to perceive affordances (or the lack of them) after having been through the operant conditioning process previously - and then generalising from that experience to all spikes?

What's the accepted psychological wisdom on this?

Spikes Spikes Spikes Spikes
Some spikes in Windsor, Poundbury, Chiswick and Dalston, UK.

Architecting and designing by Dan

         Architecture Seth Godin asks 'Is architect a verb?', and makes an interesting distinction between design and architecture (emphases mine):

Design carries a lot of baggage related to aesthetics. We say something is well-designed if it looks good. There are great designs that don't look good, certainly, but it's really easy to get caught up in a bauhaus, white space, font-driven, Ideo-envy way of thinking about design.

So I reserve "architect" to describe the intentional arrangement of design elements to get a certain result. You can architect a computer server set up to make it more efficient. You can architect a train station to get more people per minute through the turnstiles. More interesting, you can architect a business model or a pricing structure to make it far more effective at generating the behavior you're looking for.

Seth's definition of 'architecting' is very closely aligned to what I've termed 'design with intent': strategic design intended to result in certain user behaviour. My definition's a bit narrower, probably, with the focus on influencing user behaviour, techniques for doing that, and the rights and wrongs of it, but there's a big parallel there. The key thing is that both architecting and designing with intent are deliberate (and often deliberative, too, in the Aristotelian sense - thanks to Kristian Tørning for this point). There is some reasoning, some intended outcome, driving them. As we've seen before, not everyone likes the term 'architecture' (or 'architectures') being used outside the pure building and environmental design context. But it's useful because it clearly implies the planned, deliberate nature in a way that, say, 'structure' doesn't necessarily.

Of course, many designers, especially interaction designers, would argue that they always design 'with intent' anyway. They're always 'architecting': considering the relations between system behaviour, user behaviour, users' goals, and so on is the very basis of the human-centred/user-centred turn in design. But that doesn't negate Seth's point: 'design' does have a lot of aesthetic baggage. It may be useful - and persuasive - baggage sometimes, but it can serve to mask what design really is, or what it can be.

Seth's final point draws a number of other aspects together:

Architecture, for me anyway, involves intention, game theory, systems thinking and relentless testing and improvement. Fine with me if you want to call it design, just don't forget to do it.

Based on my research so far, I think we need to add ecological psychology and behavioural economics to that list, at the very least.

Design with Intent presentation from Persuasive 2008 by Dan

EDIT: I've now added the audio! Thanks everyone for the suggestions on how best to do it; the audio is hosted on this site rather than the Internet Archive as the buffering seemed to stall a bit too much. Let me know if you have any problems.

I've put my presentation from Persuasive 2008 on SlideShare, - because of the visual style it really needs to be listened to, or viewed alongside the text (below, or in the comments when viewing it on the SlideShare site). Alternatively, just download it [PPT, 11.6 Mb] - it comes with the notes.

P.S. The slide about defaults, with the alarm clock stuck on 12:00, is meant to show it flashing - the actual PPT file uses an animated GIF - but SlideShare's conversion process seems to have lost this element.*

1. I’m Dan Lockton, from Brunel University in London, and I’m going to be talking about what we call ‘Design with Intent’. It’s effectively Persuasive Technology in a Wider Context.

2. Persuasive Technology is an example of design that’s intended to result in certain user behaviour. It’s design with intent.

3. If we cast our net a bit more widely, we can see that this idea recurs across many areas of design: solutions employed in one context are often applicable to others. Our research involves developing a tool to help designers match applicable design techniques to a range of ‘target behaviours’, and we’re ultimately going to be applying this to ecodesign, guiding more sustainable product use.

4. In this presentation we’ll look at a series of Design with Intent examples across different fields not normally considered part of Persuasive Technology, then see how the ideas of PT and DwI fit together. Then I’ll quickly describe how our work’s progressed since the paper was written.

5. Before getting started, have a look at these so-called ‘anti-loitering’ benches in Oxford, England – designed to prevent users actually sitting down, as the council freely admits. The seats are too high to sit properly and curved so you slide off if you try – you can ‘perch’, but that’s it. But there’s a worthwhile lesson right here: whatever the designers’ intent might be…

6. …people will find their own ways of using things. It’s easier to bend metal than to twist arms.

7. OK. In Human-Computer Interaction, as in Product Design, the main expressions of Design with Intent relate to designing specific affordances and constraints to guide users: shaping users’ perceptions of what actions are possible, and making some actions intentionally more difficult or impossible.

8. You can ‘design out’ affordances you don’t want the user to have – constraining the options available – here, to just ‘OK’, even if the user’s not OK with that - but it doesn’t always make for the best usability.

9. Or you can be a bit cleverer, and use a forcing function (a term coined by Donald Norman) – design the system so that the ‘right’ behaviour must occur before the user can take the next step. The example here is an interlock on a Toyota: to prevent the driver starting the car while it’s in gear, the ‘Start’ button is inoperative…

10. …unless the clutch pedal is held down…

11. …while the button’s pressed. I’ll admit it took me a while to figure that one out.

12. The best-known everyday safety interlock is on the microwave oven…

13. …where it will not operate unless the door is closed. Forcing functions generally aren’t subtle. They’re tending towards the coercive side of persuasion, but because they usually help us achieve something we want, such as keeping us safe, we don’t seem to mind too much.

14. Some affordance-manipulation can be a bit more subtly persuasive. Russell Beale, a computer scientist, used the term ‘Slanty Design’ to describe design which makes certain actions slightly more difficult, to discourage them. For example, these cigarette bins are sold on the basis that they have sloping tops not for aesthetic reasons, but so people don’t just leave cigarettes or litter on top of them.

15. Another aspect of affordance/constraint thinking is the persuasive power of defaults. We all know that many users leave settings exactly how they are, or simply choose the most prominent option: as designers, we can harness this power of choice architecture – as Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein describe it - to persuade users into making the ‘right’ choices.

16. Imagine if all washing machines simply defaulted to the most efficient cycle (maybe even sensing the load to determine this). This is, again, subtle persuasion, but could have a big impact on users’ behaviour.

17. Now, in manufacturing, it’s crucial that assembly workers follow the right procedure when building something. To a large extent these are similar problems to those we’ve just seen – we want the ‘user’ (in this case that worker) to take certain actions, probably in a certain order. Every ‘mistake’ ends up costing the company money, in one way or another. Shigeo Shingo, a Japanese engineer, believed that with clever enough ‘defensive’ design, based on observation of workers, it was possible to eliminate assembly defects altogether. He called it Poka-yoke – mistake-proofing, and many of the ideas parallel those of affordances and constraints.

18. We’re used to seeing one of the very simplest poka-yoke methods every day – the ‘snipped’ corner on SIM cards, memory cards, and so, on…

19. …which prevent ‘assembly’ errors by ensuring that they can only be inserted into devices one way.

20. This is a control poka-yoke – it actually prevents the error from occurring. These are effectively forcing functions, as discussed earlier.

21. Shingo also used warning poka-yokes extensively, where a worker (or a user) is alerted to an error condition – something’s not in the right place, or is missing, or fitted incorrectly. The seatbelt warning light here indicates to the driver that a seatbelt is not buckled. This kind of immediate feedback on user behaviour is an example of suggestion-at-the-right-moment, or kairos, as defined in Persuasive Technology. It’s the right moment to warn the driver to fasten the seat belt.

22. Volvo for many years offered a gearchange suggestion light, which (based on monitoring engine RPM and throttle position), ‘suggested’ to the driver when he or she should change gear, to ensure the best economy. That’s a simple, clever persuasive technology: it makes ‘correct’ behaviour easier by guiding the user.

23. The idea that designers might ‘inscribe’ intended behaviours into artefacts has, in various forms, been subject to some philosophical and sociological debate. Johan Redström, developing an argument by Richard Buchanan, has suggested that since all artefacts are designed with some vision or intention of how they are ultimately to be used, it may be that all design is persuasive.

24. The presence of a chair persuades me to sit down where I might not have done otherwise. Designing the chair to appear more comfortable makes it even more likely. And so on.

25. Bruno Latour and Madeleine Akrich have discussed the idea that designers can ‘script’ behaviours into artefacts. Jaap Jelsma gives the example of a dual-button toilet flush as seen here, which effectively scripts users into making a decision about their water usage. There is no default, quite deliberately; the user must make some kind of decision.

26. This discussion has many expressions in urban planning, in fact: how much does architecture control us? Langdon Winner asked ‘Do artefacts have politics?’

27. His most famous examples were these very low overpasses built over a number of parkways on Long Island, by Robert Moses – too low for buses to pass underneath, with the effect of making it more difficult for poorer people to visit the Jones Beach State Park.

28. But there’s always the danger in this area of ascribing to malice what might more reasonably be explained by other factors, and the use of Moses’ bridges as the eminent ‘artefacts with politics’ example has been challenged in recent years by a number of authors.

29. Nevertheless, it is clear that some artefacts do have politics. We saw those perch benches in Oxford earlier on. Now, rough sleeping, by the homeless or otherwise, is frowned upon by many public authorities.

30. Sometimes benches with central armrests are installed specifically to attempt to stop this behaviour, especially at airports and railway stations.

31. Some models of bench are even sold to authorities on the basis that they will ‘discourage overnight stays’.

32. Not that some users can’t find a way round this…

33. Not all such techniques are so ‘anti-user’. Spaces and seating arrangements can be designed to be sociopetal, that is, to persuade people to interact – the simplest technique is to face seats towards each other…

34. …it doesn’t always work, of course.

35. Transposing the ‘architectures of control’ concept to the digital world, Lawrence Lessig used the phrase “Code is law” to explain how the structure of the internet, and what actions are possible, effectively regulates and shapes behaviour online, regardless of what laws may actually apply. If the system makes it easy to copy music, it will happen. Simplicity is persuasive.

36. So-called technological protection measures such as digital rights management – DRM - can be seen as attempts by companies to lock down the freedom of behaviour afforded by the internet, and persuade consumers into adhering to specific business models drawn up in an offline world.

37. Some of the most prevalent efforts at designing persuasion are for purely commercial benefit. Aside from advertising itself…

38. …there are strategies such as the razor-blade model, where a product is designed to persuade the consumer into repeat purchases of consumables, by locking him or her into a particular format. Electronic authentication makes this easier to enforce: for example, some printers include a ‘handshake’ which ensures that only the original manufacturer’s (usually higher-priced) cartridges can be used. Such strategies tend towards the coercive side of persuasion.

39. So, that was a very quick run-through of examples and ideas from a range of disciplines. I hope you can see how the Design with Intent idea runs through it all. But how does the field of Persuasive Technology, as it is defined, fit with this? Much PT research focuses on persuasion with intended social benefit – such as improving health - but much persuasion in the world as a whole is about intended commercial benefit. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive, of course: a fitness equipment manufacturer or a gym persuading people to exercise fulfils both social and commercial benefit intentions.

40. So, it makes sense to think of these as two separate dimensions of the ‘Design with Intent’ space. Another aspect is whether the impact on the immediate user is helpful or not. This is where some persuasion techniques may fall down: it might be better for society, in terms of energy saving, if you can’t put your TV on standby any more, but it’s likely to inconvenience you. This is the grey area above. So if this space represents all Design with Intent, then maybe PT, as it’s defined, is the area outlined with the dashed line: it’s centred on intended social benefit, usually (but not always) helpful to the immediate user, and possibly with intended commercial benefit too. Still, this is only one way of visualising the relationship: as the boundaries of Persuasive Technology as a field are debated and redrawn, we may find that visualisations illustrating other aspects, such as coercion vs. persuasion, and so on, become useful.

41. Going beyond what’s in the paper now, over the last few months we’ve considered and analysed many different examples from different fields, and have tried to classify these techniques to understand them better and synthesize similar ideas.

42. The techniques pretty much fall into five ‘approaches’ which, though always open to debate, are useful in defining the mind-set a designer might have in approaching the problem.

43. These techniques have then been incorporated into a ‘suggestion tool’, which, given a target behaviour, allows designers to explore applicable techniques.

44. …The target behaviours are abstract descriptions, but can be applied to many different problems; each breaks down further into more specific target behaviours.

45. The next stage of our research will be testing out this suggestion tool, both in practical workshop sessions with design students and then with design consultancies… and with an online version, too. After that, the aim is to do user trials with prototype ‘persuasive’ products developed as a result of applying the suggestion tool to sustainable behaviour problems, comparing how well different techniques actually work in practice in terms of changing behaviour, saving energy or reducing waste.

46. To conclude, I hope this brief review of Design with Intent has been interesting, and more importantly, inspirational in terms of suggesting examples of behaviour-shaping design beyond the immediate Persuasive Technology field. Our research is only at a very early stage, but we hope in due course to be able to present some concrete results, applying ‘Design with Intent’ thinking to guiding user behaviour, specifically in sustainable design.

47. In the meantime, if you’re interested, please do have a look at the research blog – at Thanks for listening.

All photographs/images by Dan Lockton except: Slide 6 – Oxford Cornmarket bench with teenagers – Stephanie Jenkins - Slide 14 – two catalogue images – New Pig Corporation - Slide 22 – Volvo 340/360 dashboard – Volvo 300 Mania forums - Slide 27 – Wantagh Parkway overpass – Peacenic on Flickr - Slide 28 – Jones Beach approach – New York Architecture - Slide 29 – Sleeping on a Hyde Park Bench – David Basanta on Flickr - Slide 31 – Georgetown bench – Belson Outdoors - Slide 32 – ‘Happy homeless’ – Rick Abbott on Flickr -

This presentation was given by Dan Lockton at Persuasive 2008, Oulu, Finland on 6 June 2008, based on the paper: Lockton, D, Harrison, D. and Stanton, N.: Design with intent: Persuasive technology in a wider context, in H. Oinas-Kukkonen et al. (eds.): Persuasive 2008, LNCS 5033. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2008. pp. 274 – 278.

A preprint version is available free from

*The clock is a Mayhem Aurora, designed by Rob Leeks and Matt Chapman, and in reality does not flash when the time isn't set. But I didn't have a VCR handy to photograph...

"Steps are like ready-made seats" (so let's make them uncomfortable) by Dan

Image from Your Local Guardian website Adrian Short let me know about something going on in Sutton, Surrey, at the same time both fundamentally pathetic and indicative of the mindset of many public authorities in 'dealing with' emergent behaviour:

An area in Rosehill, known locally as "the steps", is to be re-designed to stop young people sitting there.

Not only will the steps be made longer and more shallow to make them uncomfortable to sit on, but no handrail will be installed just in case teens decide to lean against it. ... Explaining the need for the changes, St Helier Councillor David Callaghan said: "At the moment the steps are like ready-made seats so changes will be made to make the area less attractive to young people.

It's well worth reading the readers' comments, since - to many people's apparent shock - Emma, a 'young person', actually read the article and responded with her thoughts and concerns, spurring the debate into what seems to be a microcosm of the attitudes, assumptions, prejudices and paranoia that define modern Britain's schizophrenic attitude to its 'young people'. The councillor quoted above responded too - near the bottom of the page - and Adrian's demolition of his 'understanding' of young people is direct and eloquent:

One thing young people and older people have in common is a desire to be left alone to do their own thing, provided that they are not causing trouble to others. People like Emma and her friends are not. They do not want to be told that they can go to one place but not another. They do not want to be cajoled, corralled and organised by the state -- they get enough of that at school. They certainly do not want to be disadvantaged as a group because those in charge -- you -- are unable to deal appropriately with a tiny minority of troublemakers in their midst.

EDIT: Adrian sends me a link to the council's proposal [PDF, 55 kb] which contains a few real gems - as he puts it:

I really have no idea how they can write things like this with a straight face:

"It is normal practice to provide handrails to assist pedestrians. However, these have purposely been omitted from the proposals, as they could provide loiterers with something to lean against."

and then,

"The scheme will cater for all sections of the local community."


Un-hiding an affordance by Dan

Steps in Dawlish, Devon Steps in Dawlish, Devon

These (pretty shallow) steps in Dawlish, Devon, have been labelled as such, presumably because without this, some visitors wouldn't notice, and would run, cycle or wheelchair down them and hurt themselves or others. Painting a white line along the edge is a common way of improving visibility of steps, but actual labelling is fairly unusual.

There is some argument that having to label an affordance in this way, rather than it being self-evident (e.g. by making the steps deeper, or putting a handrail, or something), is 'bad design', but I'm not sure one way or the other: from a utilitarian point of view, enormous labelling, however 'ugly', is probably a surer bet than providing subtle 'cues'. Nevertheless, the poka-yoke approach would be to design out the problem entirely: make the whole thing a full-width ramp like the section at the side.

A diagram in Bill Gaver's classic paper 'Technology Affordances' [PDF, 647 kb] sets out very clearly the importance of an affordance being perceived as such by a user:

From 'Technology Affordances' , William Gaver

In this case we have a hidden affordance (not deliberately hidden) which has been un-hidden by the label - similar to (though not as funny as) the 'This is a Mop Sink' example from Michael Darnell's fantastic

This is a Mop Sink (image from

Ann Thorpe: Can artefacts be activists? by Dan

Ann Thorpe, author of the intriguing-sounding Designer's Atlas of Sustainability - is pursuing an interesting investigation into design activism:

Some of the basic issues around design activism include: # isn’t all design activism? # how much design should be activist – aren’t designers supposed to be meeting client needs? # are there best practices for design activism?

Low bridge, image by sarflondondunc Low bridge in the Lee Valley, East London. Photo by sarflondondunc.

As part of this, she's put together a very insightful article, well worth a read, Can artefacts be activists?, reviewing some of the different approaches in this area, from Langdon Winner's discussion of Robert Moses' low parkway bridges, to this very website:

...[O]nce designers are out of the picture, have moved on to the next job, can artifacts in themselves be activists? Can buildings, appliances, tools, or items of clothing, in themselves, lobby for change or even “force” it?

There are some worthwhile areas of debate explored in the article, especially the extent to which an artefact can embody power or discriminate, in itself, rather than simply mediating this through the way it is used or experienced. I appreciate this argument, but (coming from the point of view of a designer), I think the intent behind a design feature is critical to understanding the issue. If a bridge is intentionally made low to prevent buses passing underneath, this may well have the same practical effect as one which is simply low through an accident of history or topography, but it displays a very different attitude and philosophy on the part of the planners. Unintended consequences of design decisions - made long before products (/systems/environments) reach users - certainly have an enormous effect on almost all human-technology interactions, but not so many are actually deliberate. No design is neutral; all artefacts embody some intent, some philosophy, some outlook, even if it's simply "manufacture this as cheaply as possible". All design is rhetoric, a communication of values and intentions, and can be read as a social text if that's the way you like to think of it, but with some design, those intentions are much more obviously expressed.

I look forward to seeing how Ann's research develops - this is a very interesting area which should probably be given more attention in design school curricula in the years ahead. As more young designers "tire of designing landfill" (can't remember if Ben Wilson first used this phrase to me, or me to him), design activism, of one form or another, is the most meaningful route forward.

Cyclepathology by Dan

A lot of architectures of control / design with intent examples are trying to enforce what I've termed 'access, use or occupation based on user characteristics'. Not all designs are especially successful at achieving that target behaviour: users will not always be persuaded, or will find ways to avoid being coerced. Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

Bicycles can churn up the surface of footpaths...

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

...You can put up signs to tell cyclists not to do it...

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

...or you can put in gates (kissing gates as they're known in the UK) to try to stop them (along with livestock)...

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

...but it doesn't mean anyone will take any notice!

Getting someone to do things in a particular order (Part 3) by Dan

Continued from part 2 This series is looking at what design techniques/mechanisms are applicable to guiding a user to follow a process or path, performing actions in a specified sequence. The techniques fall roughly into three ‘approaches’. In this post, I’m going to examine the Poka-yoke approach. If you've been following the previous posts, you'll probably have thought, "Well, all that's pretty obvious." And it is obvious - we encounter these kinds of design techniques in products and systems every day - but that's part of the point of this bit of the research: understanding what's out there already.

Poka-yoke approach

The mechanisms described in this approach are all based on technical (rather than explicitly human) factors, and involve designing the relationships between system elements.

Poka-yoke (Japanese: mistake-proofing) is an approach usually applied in manufacturing engineering, developed by Shigeo Shingo in the context of developing 'zero defect' assembly processes. The idea is to avoid slip-type errors by designing systems which prevent them occurring, prevent a user proceeding until the error condition has been rectified (control poka-yokes), or at the very least clearly warn the user of the error condition (warning poka-yokes).

Generally, when the design intent is for the user to follow a process or path in a specified sequence, a deviation from that sequence can be considered as an error, and thus the poka-yoke approach can be applicable outside its original field. Similar concepts, forcing functions, have been developed in interaction design, especially in the work of Donald Norman - the three main forcing function mechanisms, Interlock, Lock-in and Lock-out, broadly correspond to Shingo's control poka-yoke category; all can help in assisting (or forcing) users to follow a process or sequence. In the warning poka-yoke category, the Arrangement detection mechanism is most relevant to this behaviour.


An Interlock combines elements of both lock-ins and lock-outs (see below), and is probably the most familiar forcing function mechanism: the ability to use one function is dependent on another running or being started, another component (such as a guard) being in place, or some other condition being fulfilled.

Toyota Verso clutch-ignition interlockToyota Verso clutch-ignition interlockToyota Verso clutch-ignition interlock Example: This Toyota Verso requires the clutch pedal to be depressed before the starter button will operate, to reduce the risk of starting in gear.

Car ignitions which cannot be operated unless the driver's seat belt is fastened - a system originally promoted as 'Interlock' in the US - microwave ovens not operating unless the door is closed, and airline or train toilets where the lighting does not operate until the user has locked the door, are some of the highest profile everyday examples, but the principle of the interlock is extremely common in engineering and manufacturing industry, often in the context of a machine tool which will not start until a guard is in place, or where opening the case automatically cuts the power.

Interlocks are often specified when it is imperative - rather than merely desirable - that a user follow a particular sequence, or at least two steps of a sequence, in exactly the right order, but their use need not be limited to critical safety design problems. Ecodesign applications might include (for example) a car's air conditioning system requiring the windows to be fully closed before operating, or a sink requiring the plug to be in before the tap can be left in a 'running' position.

Microwave oven door interlockMicrowave oven door interlock Example: The ubiquitous interlock on a microwave oven ensures that the door is closed before the oven will start.


The Lock-in mechanism in this context (rather than an economic one) refers to a system arranged such that a process, procedure or operation is kept active - the user can't exit the operation until a certain condition is met, or the 'correct' next step is taken. This can be implemented using sensors, logic processing, physical architecture, or a number of other ways.

As Norman puts it, this prevents "someone from prematurely stopping" an operation - this could mean letting some ongoing process run its course to completion before starting the next, or denying the user access to another function which might interfere with the current process. It can also prevent accidental cancelling of an operation - inadvertent deviation from a specified sequence - by introducing an extra 'confirmation' step.

Confirmation dialogue Example: The confirmation dialogue displayed by some software when a user attempts to exit can be seen as a lock-in to prevent inadvertent ending of the application.


Lock-out is closely related to Lock-in: in this case, the mechanism makes it difficult or impossible for the user to start certain operations, or denies or impedes access to particular areas or functions. In the context of encouraging or forcing a user to follow a path or process in a specified sequence, a lock-out helps prevent inadvertent or mistaken steps in that sequence. It can also help prevent an operation being started too early in the sequence, and may also be implemented as an extra 'confirmation' step.

Lock-out dialogue Example: This file backup application prevents a user modifying the properties of a scheduled backup task while it is running - ensuring that the correct sequence is followed.

Arrangement detection

Arrangement detection is a 'warning' rather than 'control' poka-yoke mechanism, and may be considered as a 'feedback' analogue of interlocks, lock-ins and lock-outs - providing a warning (audible, visual, tactile) when system elements are incorrectly arranged (physically or procedurally).

Arrangement detection is about warning the user that the path or process is occurring in an incorrect sequence, rather than actually forcing the user to follow the correct sequence. While there are a number of possible warning poka-yoke mechanisms alerting users to incorrect behaviour, arrangement detection is most relevant to the specific issue of sequencing.

Seatbelt warning Example: The seat belt warning on car dashboards (in this case a Fiat Punto) is an arrangement detection poka-yoke, providing a visual (and often also audible) alert that a belt is not buckled while the engine is running, or the car is moving.

In part 4, we’ll look at the Persuasive Interface approach to getting someone to do things in a particular order.

Getting someone to do things in a particular order (Part 2) by Dan

Continued from part 1 Suggested mechanisms

These are the suggested mechanisms applicable to User follows process or path, performing actions in a specified sequence - they fall roughly into three 'approaches'. In this post, I'm going to examine the System element approach.

System element approach

This approach includes mechanisms relating to the layout and properties of system elements, hence all technical rather than human factors.

Placing, Spacing and Orientation - how system elements are laid out - are some of the most fundamental mechanisms a designer can employ to help a user to follow a process or path in the intended sequence, and can be used both in the 'real' world and, as metaphors, in software. Movement or oscillation, as an 'action' property of system elements, which may involve changing their placing/spacing/orientation, can also be used to help achieve similar aims.


Placing may be implemented as simply as arranging interactive elements (functions, buttons, shops, products on shelves - effectively, anything) in sequence so that a user interacts (sees / notices / experiences / uses) them in the 'right' order. This might involve actually hiding one element behind another so that the first 'must' be dealt with before progressing to the next (or only displaying the second element once the first has been dealt with), but often this is not necessary: users will tend to interact with elements in a predictable sequence, at least where it is clear which direction the sequence is meant to progress (compare reading directions in different alphabets, for example, and the effect this has on the layout of interfaces).

Amazon's order process reveals elements in sequence Example: The elements of Amazon’s order process, revealed to the user in sequence

Placing can also involve arranging (non-interactive) elements to 'channel' users along a path in an intended sequence - walls, fences and guard rails are obvious architectural examples, but there are more subtle ones too, such as the layout of some casinos in which winners are 'funnelled' past many lures on their way to a single cashier.

Guard rails to channel pedestrians Example: Guard rails are placed to channel pedestrians away from crossing at the mouth of a road junction


Spacing - deliberate separation of system elements in space - can also be used strategically to cause users to follow a path or sequence of operations or interactions. For example many supermarkets are laid out with common items such as milk and bread at the back of the store, meaning that shoppers pass many other shelves of items (with potential for impulse purchase) on the way to their 'target', and on the way back to the checkouts at the front of the store.

Spacing can also be used to cause users to follow procedures requiring a delay between performing operations - the 'on' switch for a lathe may be spaced far enough away from the chuck that it is impossible for the operator's fingers to be in a dangerous position as the device is switched on. Along similar lines, spacing light switches for different parts of a corridor or stairway apart so that they must each be switched on in sequence individually when needed (rather than allowing users to switch them all on at once) may reduce unnecessary electricity use.

Dairy section drives traffic to rear of supermarket Example: Dairy items are often positioned to drive traffic to the rear of a supermarket. Image from wander.lust


Orientation is necessarily related to placing and spacing - the relative angle or attitude of system elements can be used as a mechanism for encouraging or channelling users to follow a path or perform actions in sequence. A trivial example is the use of angled walls to 'funnel' pedestrians along a particular path. It can also be used to cause users themselves to change their orientation in response, where this is part of an intended sequence of user behaviour - the staggered pedestrian crossings which make sure users turn to face the direction of oncoming traffic, as mentioned in Part 1, use the changing orientation of the walkway to change users' orientation.

Pedestrian crossing staggered to cause users to face oncoming traffic Example: A staggered pedestrian crossing designed so that users face oncoming traffic. Image from the UK Highway Code.

Movement or oscillation

Movement or oscillation may involve changing the placing/spacing/orientation of system elements, and can be applied in a physical or metaphorical sense. A moving indicator which guides the user through a process or sequence, or indeed, brings system elements which require interaction to the user (or routes them past), encourages (or forces) following procedures in the 'right' order.

Consider this mechanism as a dynamic implementation of placing/spacing/orientation: it has the potential to control much more fully the order in which users are exposed to objects or functions. The most obvious examples are conveyors on production lines, bringing components or products to stationary workers in the right sequence, but even museum exhibits such as the Crown Jewels may be displayed in a rotating or constantly moving case, which displays them to visitors in a certain order and reduces the possibility of undesired interactions.

Conveyor brings items to user in the right sequence Example: A conveyor (such as this on a Krispy Kreme doughnut preparation line) brings products or components to workers in the right sequence. Image from Silversprite

In part 3, we'll look at the Poka-yoke approach to getting someone to do things in a particular order.

J G Ballard & Architectures of Control by Dan Lockton

Ballardian Over at the brilliant Ballardian, editor Simon Sellars has just published my article 'J.G. Ballard & Architectures of Control', where I take a brief look at how Ballard's work repeatedly examines 'the effect of architecture on the individual' - something central to both the physical and psychological aspects of my research. Many thanks are due to Simon for giving me the opportunity to write for this (very knowledgeable) audience, and I hope I've done the subject justice.

Surveillance cameras hung like gargoyles from the cornices, following me as I approached the barbican and identified myself to the guard at the reception desk… High above me, fluted columns carried the pitched roofs, an attempt at a vernacular architecture that failed to disguise this executive-class prison. Taking their cue from Eden-Olympia and Antibes-les-Pins, the totalitarian systems of the future would be subservient and ingratiating, but the locks would be just as strong.

Super-Cannes, chapter 15.

Towards a Design with Intent 'Method' - v.0.1 by Dan Lockton

As mentioned a while back, I've been trying to find a way to classify the numerous 'Design with Intent' and architectures of control examples that have been examined on this site, and suggested by readers. Since that post, my approach has shifted slightly to look at what the intent is behind each example, and hence develop a kind of 'method' for suggesting 'solutions' to 'problems', based on analysing hundreds of examples. I'd hesitate to call it a suggestion algorithm quite yet, but it does, in a very very rudimentary way, borrow certain ideas from TRIZ*. Below is a tentative, v.0.1 example of the kind of thought process that a 'designer' might be led through by using the DwI Method. I've deliberately chosen an common example where the usual architectures of control-type 'solutions' are pretty objectionable. Other examples will follow. General view of the method diagram v.0.1

Basics of the DwI Method, v.0.1

1. Assuming you have a 'problem' involving the interaction between one of more users, and a product, system or environment (hereafter, the system), the first stage is to express what your intended target behaviour is. What do you actually want to achieve?

2. Attempt to describe your intended target behaviour in terms of one of the general target behaviours for the interaction, listed in the table below. (This is, of course, very much a rough work in progress at present, and these will undoubtedly change and be added to.) Your intended target behaviour may seem to map to more than one general target behaviour: this may mean that you actually have two 'problems' to solve.

General target behaviours v.0.1

3. You're presented with a set of mechanisms - loosely categorised as physical, psychological, economic, legal or structural - which, it's suggested, could be applied to achieve the general target behaviour, and thus your intended target behaviour. Some mechanisms have a narrow focus - dealing specifically with the interaction between the user and the system - and some are much wider in scope - looking outside the immediate interaction. Different mechanisms can be combined, of course: the idea here is to inspire 'solutions' to your 'problem' rather than actually specify them.

The mechanisms, illustrative v.0.1


An example

This example is one that I've covered extensively on this blog: the most common 'solutions' are, generally, very unfriendly, but it's clear to most of us that the 'wider scope' mechanisms are, ultimately, more desirable.

Original photo by David Basanta
Sleeping on a bench in Hyde Park, London. Photo by David Basanta


A number of benches in a city-centre park are occupied overnight or during parts of the day by homeless people. The city council/authorities ('they') decide that this is a problem: they don't want homeless people sleeping on the benches in the park. Expressed differently, their intended target behaviour is no homeless people sleeping on the benches.

So, which of the general target behaviours is closest to this?

Currently the list (disclaimer: v.0.1, will change a lot, letter allocations are not significant) is:

A1:  Access, use or occupation based on user characteristics A2:  Access, use or occupation based on user behaviour B:   No access, use or occupation, in a specific manner, by any user C:   User provided with functionality only when environmental criteria satisfied D:   Separate flows and occupation; users have no influence on each other E:   Interaction between users or groups of users F:   No user-created blockages or congestion caused by multiple users G:   Controlled rate of flow or passage of users H:   User follows process or path I:    User pays the maximum price which still results in a sale

While we might think the ‘discriminatory’ implications of A1 and A2 are relevant here given our assumptions about the authorities' motives, in fact ‘they’ probably don’t want anyone sleeping on the benches, regardless of whether he or she’s actually homeless, just having a lunchtime nap before returning to a corner office at Goldman Sachs, or anywhere in between. They don’t mind someone sitting on the bench (grudgingly, that would seem to be its purpose), as long as it’s not for too long (that’s another ‘problem’, though with very similar ‘solutions’), but they don’t want anyone sleeping on it. It’s not exactly the same problem as preventing anyone lying down (we might imagine a bright light or loudspeaker positioned over the bench, which allows people to lie down but makes it difficult to sleep), but the problems, and most solutions, are very close.

So it turns out that B, ‘No access, use or occupation, in a specific manner, by any user’, best matches the intended target behaviour in this case:

General Target Behaviour close-up, v.0.1

From mechanisms to 'solutions'

Looking at the diagram (PDF, 25k, or click image below), a number of possible mechanisms are suggested to achieve this target behaviour. (Again, a disclaimer: this is very much work in progress, and many mechanisms are missing at this stage.) There are physical, psychological, economic, legal and structural mechanisms, some with a narrow focus, and some much wider in scope.

Category B preview, v.0.1

I'll try to pick out and discuss a few mechanisms - physical, psychological and structural (leaving out the legal and economic for the moment) - to demonstrate how they can be applied in the context of the bench example, but first it's important to note two things:

  • Different mechanisms can of course be combined to produce solutions: e.g. legal mechanisms would need some kind of surveillance, either human or technological, to enforce; a 'stick' approach along with a 'carrot' may be more effective than simply one or the other. So a fine for interacting with the system (i.e. sleeping on the bench) would probably have more effect if combined with making the alternative more attractive, e.g. providing somewhere else for people to sleep.
  • None of these mechanisms is an actual 'solution' to the 'problem' directly, and even if applied rigorously, the actual effectiveness in terms of physically forcing, psychologically encouraging, or otherwise enforcing the intended target behaviour is not guaranteed. Users are not mechanical components; nor are they all rational economically. Your results will vary.
  • The most obvious physical mechanism for addressing the issue is the placing of material - to interrupt the surface of the bench, or perhaps even to cause injury (usually not done deliberately with park benches, but surely done, at least in the sense of conditioning the user not to repeat the interactions, with some pigeon spikes, barbed wire, anti-climb and various anti-sit spikes).

    Mechanisms close-up, v.0.1

    Interrupting the surface of the bench is usually done by adding central armrests (which do at least serve another function in addition), as illustrated here:

    New anti-homeless bench being installed at Richmond Station

    Belson Georgetown Bench
    A new bench with armrests being installed at Richmond Station, just as London Overground takes over from Silverlink; and the Belson Georgetown Bench, "Redesigned to face contemporary urban realities, this bench comes standard with a centre arm to discourage overnight stays in its comfortable embrace."

    Of course, it is possible to sleep on a bench with central armrests, but it's certainly discouraging, as the Belson quote suggests.

    Sleeping over armrests on bench, photo by Rick Abbott
    Photo by Rick Abbott

    Placing of material could equally be subtractive rather than additive - so interrupting the surface might also suggest removing elements to prevent or discourage sleeping. This could be in the form of removing every (say) third section of a bench, thus making the remaining length too short to lie down on properly (this has been done in some airport lounges), making the benches shorter altogether, or even separating the seats into 'single-occupancy benches' - which would seem to be suggested by the spatial mechanism:

    Short bench - image from Yumiko Hayakawa Single occupancy benches - photo by Ville Tikkanen
    "A man tries to sleep on a deliberately shortened bench at the park" - photo from this excellent article by Yumiko Hayakawa discussing anti-homeless measures in Tokyo; 'Single-occupancy benches' in Helsinki - photo by Ville Tikkanen

    Indeed, simply narrowing the bench (making a kind of perch), and/or removing the backrest from a bench which already has central armrests, so that someone can't even lean back to doze, would also count in terms of removing material.

    Mechanisms close-up, v.0.1

    Designs suggested by the orientation of material mechanisms are also fairly common - most often, a simply angled seat surface, as used on many bus-stop perches or these benches:

    Angled bench - photo from Yumiko Hayakawa
    "Can't Lie Down, Can't Lean Back - A man has a hard time getting a break on this partitioned, forward-leaning bench at Tokyo's Ueno Onshi park". Photo from Yumiko Hayakawa's article. Bench by Joscelyn Bingham
    The 'Lean Seat' by Joscelyn Bingham

    Curved surfaces, both convex and concave, can also be employed:

    Curved bench - photo from Yumiko Hayakawa Curved bench - photo from PhatalbertConvex surface tubular bench in Tokyo - photo from Yumiko Hayakawa's article; Concave surface bus shelter perch in Shanghai - photo by Albert Sun

    And curvature can be combined with the use of armrests (and height - which suggests that spatial might also be expanded to include something like "dimensional change to alter distance between elements of system") to create something like the 'Oxford Cornmarket montrosity', which might prevent people sleeping on it, but certainly doesn't stop people occupying it in a way the designers didn't intend:

    Monstrosity, Oxford Cornmarket

    Monstrosity in use, Oxford Cornmarket
    The 'benches' in Oxford's Cornmarket Street, discussed here and here. Second photo by Stephanie Jenkins

    Looking at some of the other relevant physical mechanisms, it's worth noting that change of environmental characteristic - 'local temperature change' - also finds an expression in the convex Tokyo bench pictured above - as Yumiko Hayakawa notes in the original article:

    The hard curved surface of this stainless-steel bench, too hot in summer, too cold in winter, repels all but one visitor to Ikebukuro West Park.

    We might also think of positioning a street lamp right above a bench - to make it took bright to sleep there easily at night - as a similar tactic in this vein, 'local illumination change'.

    What about the other relevant physical mechanisms? Change of material characteristic could mean a bench that deforms in some way when someone lies on it, or maybe has an uncomfortable surface texture (nails?). But both of these would probably preclude the bench's use for sitting, in addition to sleeping. Movement or oscillation could suggest a bench which is balanced somehow so that it requires the user's feet to be on the ground, in a normal sitting position, to keep it stable, and which would fall over (extra degree of freedom introduced) when someone tried to lie down on it, or maybe a bench which is sited on a turntable continually rotating, or a vibrating base, so that the user's feet on the ground are again needed for stabilising, and someone lying down would fall off. None of these is an especially realistic 'solution', but would all address the 'problem' even if simultaneously introducing others.

    (At this point, we might consider that if the 'problem' mainly occurs at night, we might want a bench that only becomes un-sleepable on - or unusable - at night. This would be best addressed by general target behaviour C, 'User provided with functionality only when environmental criteria satisfied' - many of the suggested mechanisms will be similar, but with conditional elements to them - if it is dark, or after a certain time, the bench might automatically retract into the ground, or become uncomfortable, if it weren't already.)

    As noted on the diagram (PDF, 25k), I've (so far) had a bit of a mental blind-spot in coming up with wider-scope physical mechanisms to address this general target behaviour. The only sensible ones so far relate to applying the placing of material on the approach to the system, so in this case, it might mean putting the bench on an island surrounded by mud, water or spikes and so on, which doesn't really seem useful. This wider-scope line-of-thinking needs much further development for some types of mechanisms, although it's fairly obvious where it relates to making an alternative system more attractive.

    Mechanisms close-up, v.0.1
    Narrow-scope psychological mechanisms

    Turning to psychological mechanisms, with both narrow and wider scopes, the emphasis pretty much comes down to a 'stick' or 'carrot' approach: either scare/warn/otherwise put off the user from sleeping on the bench, or make an alternative more attractive/available. It's about creating unattractive perceived affordances, perhaps, where the physical mechanisms are about removing real affordances.

    From the narrow scope point-of-view, some of the applicable psychological 'solutions' might include: 'warning' potential sleepers off with signage or colour schemes (not that this would do much; it's more likely to provoke amusement, as in the photo below); making benches which look uncomfortable (whether or not they are); paying(?) scary or unattractive other 'users' to hang around the bench to scare people away (which perhaps defeats the object slightly); or, probably most likely, using overt surveillance of the bench, by humans or cameras, which brings in considerations of the legal mechanisms too (and maybe economic, in the form of fines). Another aspect of surveillance is making the (unwanted) interaction visible to other users - using the pressure of social norms to 'shame' people into not doing something (positioning the sink outside the bathroom, in a kind of ante-room visible to others, is a good example), but it's difficult to see how to apply this to the bench example - even if the bench is, say, positioned where lots of people will see the user sleeping on it, the pressure to vacate it is pretty low. This is a kind of 'public' feedback; feedback itself is an extremely important psychological mechanism in interaction design, but seems (from my research so far) to be much more applicable to some of the other general target behaviours.

    Sign in bushes, photo from Tacky Fabulous Orlando Mechanisms close-up, v.0.1
    A genuine sign in Orlando, via Boing Boing; and some applicable wider scope psychological mechanisms.

    The wider scope psychological mechanisms are much more positive - indeed, more positive than anything else so far in this example. Here, the aim is to make alternative systems - i.e. an alternative to sleeping on the park bench, whatever it might be - more attractive. This is where this sort of thing comes into play:

    Sean Godsell, House in a Park Sean Godsell, House in a Park
    Sean Godsell's 'House in a Park', a bench that folds out into a rudimentary shelter (above) and (below) Bus Shelter House, which "converts into an emergency overnight accommodation. The bench lifts to reveal a woven steel mattress and the advertising hoarding is modified to act as a dispenser of blankets, food, and water."
    Sean Godsell, Bus Shelter House

    Note that at this level, the alternative systems themselves are attractive (more attractive than sleeping on the park bench) by simply fulfilling users' needs rather than any psychological 'tricks'. There is a lesson there.

    'Guerrilla' responses by users frustrated at heavy-handed anti-user measures don't directly have a place in the DwI Method, at least as currently constituted, but in this case, for example, providing temporary cardboard seating (/sleeping benches) or even parts that fit over benches with central armrests to permit sleeping once again, as Crosbie Fitch suggests, are worth thinking about:

    Perhaps also, for each anti-sit seat design, one could come up with cardboard add-ons that re-enable long-term seating and recumbence. These could be labelled “Temporary Seat Repairs”, “Protective Seat Covers”, “Citizen City Seats”, or something far wittier.

    Mechanisms close-up, v.0.1

    It's the structural mechanisms which suggest the more large-scale 'solutions', from provision of alternative systems (as in the Sean Godsell examples above) to actually removing the need for anyone to sleep rough. Ultimately, of course, that's a better goal than any of the above - anything discussed in this article - but it's not really a 'solution', rather a desirable aim, or even an intended target behaviour in itself, addressing a social issue rather than a 'design' one. Addressing the 'disease' rather than merely disguising the symptoms is surely preferable in the long-term.

    Alternatively, some cities have simply removed benches altogether where there is a 'homeless problem...

    Benches removed - photo by Fredo Alvarez
    Benches stripped in Washington DC - "A small homeless population [had grown] there within the past few months". photo by Fredo Alvarez.

    ...'removal of system entirely' being the structural mechanism there: doing absolutely nothing to help the homeless users, and in the process removing the benches for everyone who uses the park.


    The choice of such a negative example for demonstrating this very early version of the Design With Intent Method - where almost all the 'solutions' suggested are anti-user and generally unfriendly - reflects, pretty much, where my 'architectures of control' research came from in the first place. Most of the examples posted on the site over the past couple of years have generally been about stopping users doing something, forcing them to do something they don't want to do, or tricking them into doing something against their own best interests - certainly more than have been about more positive efforts to help and guide users.

    I thought that using the DwI Method initially to see if I could 'get inside the head' (possibly) of the 'they' who implement this kind of disciplinary architecture would be a useful insight, before applying the method to something more user-friendly and worthwhile - which willl be the next task.


    *As 'Silverman' cautioned before, the aim must not be to remove the use of engineering/design intuition - most creative people would not respond well to that anyway - but primarily to inspire possible solutions.