Some news, mostly around writing by Dan

• My PhD, which was inspired and indeed sired by this blog, back in 2007, has finally been approved by the examiners. I've put the thesis online with a few comments. I'll have a proper post reflecting on it all in due course - just need some time to think about it. Thank you to everyone who's helped along the way.

• In March I joined the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, as a senior associate working on the SusLabNWE project, and also some executive education work for partner organisations. It's a wonderful place with some great people, and I'm very pleased to be part of it. There are some exciting events coming up around the SusLab project, which will be announced later in the summer.

People and energy: A design-led approach to understanding everyday energy use behaviour, a paper based on the first phase of our SusLabNWE work, co-authored with Flora Bowden, Catherine Greene, Clare Brass and Rama Gheerawo, has been accepted for EPIC 2013, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference taking place in London in September. A more detailed abstract is also available.

• Last year, my post about behavioural heuristics, based on a workshop run at Interaction 12 in Dublin, attracted quite a lot of interest. I have now had an article, Exploring Problem-Framing Through Behavioural Heuristics, accepted and published in the open-access International Journal of Design, which explores the concept in more detail, using some empirical research around interaction with heating systems from the EMPOWER / CarbonCulture project as examples. The article was co-authored with David Harrison, Rebecca Cain, Neville Stanton and Paul Jennings.

• Last September, Rob Phillips and I ran a stall at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire inviting visitors to create instructions for other people, around the tasks of making tea or making fire. The idea was that the way someone explains a system to someone else can provide insights into his or her mental model of the system, and that asking people to create these kinds of 'peer instructions' could be a useful research method for design. We have had an article exploring this accepted for the ACM Interactions 'On Modelling' forum, edited by Hugh Dubberly, so 'Making instructions for others: exploring mental models through a simple exercise', co-authored with Sharon Baurley and Sarah Silve, should be published in Interactions 20(5) in September 2013. I will make sure an open-access version is available.

• Following my previous Guardian Sustainable Business article, I was commissioned by Autodesk to write another, this time on design for repair and the possibilities of wider sustainability (and social) impacts not just through making products that last longer, but through building people's understanding of everyday systems, and giving us the confidence to change the world for the better. I think there's something quite powerful here, and it potentially relates to both civic engagement and the debate over 'seamlessness' in interaction design. A blog post about this is in gestation.

• I'll be writing about thermostats for The Atlantic's Object Lessons series (thanks to Ian Bogost).

• Finally, my short biography of Tom Lawrence Williams, the founder of the Reliant Motor Company, commissioned by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, has now been published, and appears to be free to view online (most articles need a subscription, which most UK public libraries have).

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.

Design and behaviourism: a brief review by Dan

by Dan Lockton In a meta-auto-behaviour-change effort both to keep me motivated during a very protracted PhD write-up and demonstrate that the end is in sight, I'm going to be publishing a few extracts from my thesis (mostly from the literature review, and before any rigorous editing) as blog posts over the next few weeks. It would be nice to think they might also be interesting brief articles in their own right, but the style is not necessarily blog-like, and some of the graphics and tables are ugly.

“It is now clear that we must take into account what the environment does to an organism not only before but after it responds. Behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences… It is true that man’s genetic endowment can be changed only very slowly, but changes in the environment of the individual have quick and dramatic effects.” B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, 1971, p.24

Behaviourism as a psychological approach is based on empirical observation of human (and animal) behaviour—stimuli in the environment, and the behavioural responses which follow—and attempts in turn to apply stimuli to provoke desired responses. John B. Watson (1913, p.158), in laying out the behaviourist viewpoint, reacted against the then-current focus by Freud and others on unobservable concepts such as the processes of the mind: “Psychology as the behaviorist views it… [has as its] theoretical goal…the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness”.

Classical and operant conditioning

In an engineering sense, Watson’s behaviourism perhaps treats animals and humans as black boxes* (Sparks, 1982), whose truth tables can be elicited by comparing inputs (stimuli) and outputs (responses), without any attempt to model the internal logic of the system—an approach which Chomsky (1971) criticises. As Koestler (1967, p.19) put it—also heavily criticising the behaviourist view—“[s]ince all mental events are private events which cannot be observed by others, and which can only be made public through statements based on introspection, they had to be excluded from the domain of science.” However, learning (via conditioning) is inherent to behaviourism—both Watson’s and the later perspective of Skinner—which means that the black box is somewhat more complex than a component with fixed behaviour. Classical or respondent conditioning, of the kind explored with dogs by Pavlov (1927)—and often applied in behaviour change methods such as aversion therapy (as for example, the ‘Ludovico technique’ in Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange (1962))—repeatedly pairs two stimuli so that the reflex behaviour provoked by one also becomes provoked by the other.

Operant conditioning, as developed by B.F. Skinner (1953) via famous experiments with pigeons, rats and other animals, is essentially about consequences: it involves reinforcing (or punishing) certain behaviours (the operant) so that the animal (or person) becomes conditioned to behave in a particular way:

“When a bit of behaviour is followed by a certain kind of consequence, it is more likely to occur again, and a consequence having this effect is called a reinforcer. Food, for example, is a reinforcer to a hungry organism; anything the organism does that is followed by the receipt of food is more likely to be done again whenever the organism is hungry. Some stimuli are called negative reinforcers: any response which reduces the intensity of such a stimulus—or ends it—is more likely to be emitted when the stimulus recurs. Thus, if a person escapes from a hot sun when he moves under cover, he is more likely to move under cover when the sun is again hot.” (Skinner, 1971, p.31-32)

It is important to note here that in Skinner’s terms, positive and negative reinforcement do not imply ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and negative reinforcement is a different concept to punishment. Positive reinforcement is giving a reward in return for particular behaviour; negative reinforcement is removing something unpleasant in return for particular behaviour. These are subtly different. Pryor (2002) gives the example of a car seatbelt warning buzzer as negative reinforcement—a device designed to be irritating or unpleasant enough to cause the user to take action to avoid it. We might consider that a recorded voice saying “Thank you” after the seatbelt is fastened could be a positive reinforcement alternative. Positive and negative punishment are essentially the inverse of each of these—a fine for not wearing a seatbelt while driving is a form of positive punishment, and taking away someone’s driving licence would be a form of negative punishment. Clicker training with animals such as dolphins and dogs (e.g. Pryor, 2002) arguably combines features of classical and operant conditioning, using an audible clicking device to help ‘mark’ particular behaviours immediately they occur, which can then be positively reinforced with treats—or the click itself can act as a reinforcer.

A major factor in operant conditioning is the schedule of reinforcement that occurs: variable schedules of reinforcement, where a reward occurs on an unpredictable schedule—either ratio (amount of behaviour required) or interval (time required)—can be particularly effective; as Skinner (1971, p. 39) notes, variable ratio scheduling is “at the heart of all gambling systems”. Pryor (2002, p. 22) comments that “[p]eople like to play slot machines precisely because there’s no predicting whether nothing will come out, or a little money, or a lot of money, or which time the reinforcer will come (it might be the very first time).” This principle is inherent in all games of chance—Schell (2008, p.153) recognises it as something a designer can work with explicitly: “a good game designer must become the master of chance and probability, sculpting it to his will, to create an experience that is always full of challenging decisions and interesting surprises.”

*A ‘black box’ approach to modelling human, animal and other system behaviour has also been discussed extensively within cybernetics, e.g. by Ashby (1956) and Bateson (1969).

Social traps

“Like their physical analogs, social traps are baited. The baits are the positive rewards which, through the mechanisms of learning, direct behavior along lines that seem right every step of the way but nevertheless end up at the wrong place. Complex patterns of reinforcement, motivation, and the structure of social situations can draw people into unpreferred modes of behavior, subjecting them to consequences that are not comprehended until it is too late to avoid them.” Cross and Guyer, Social Traps, 1980, p.16-17

Platt (1973) and Cross and Guyer (1980) discuss ‘social traps’, situations in which there is both reinforcement which encourages a behaviour, but also a punishment or unpleasant consequences of some kind, affecting either the person involved or someone else, at some later point or in some other way. “The behavior that receives the green light becomes supplanted by or is accompanied by an unavoidable punishment…[C]igarette smoking provides a simple example: the gratification associated with smoking encourages future behavior of the same kind, while the painful illness associated with that same behavior does not occur until a point very distant in the future; and when, finally, the illness does occur, no behavioral adjustments exist that are sufficient to avoid it” (p.11-12). There are perhaps parallels with Bateson’s concept of the double bind (Bateson et al, 1956), in which a person is subject to conflicting ‘injunctions’ (reinforcers or punishments) about what ‘right’ behaviour is, with the result that whatever he or she does, will be wrong (and perhaps punished) according to one of the injunctions.

Countertraps—what Platt (1973) suggests might be called ‘social fences’—also exist, where people avoid a behaviour because of (fear of) punishment or undesirable consequences, even though the behaviour would have been desirable. Often the reinforcer is a short-term, local gain, whereas the punishment is a longer-term effect, perhaps affecting a wider group or area: Platt cites Hardin’s tragedy of the commons (1968) as a well-known example of social trap with worldwide social and environmental consequences. Costanza (1987) examines how different kinds of social traps are responsible for a range of environmental problems.

Cross and Guyer’s (1980) taxonomy of social traps is potentially interesting for two reasons from a design perspective, since (in common with some of the cognitive biases and heuristics to be discussed in a later post), design could seek to help users avoid such traps, by redesigning situations to avoid them (hence influencing behaviour), or in some way exploit the effects to influence behaviour, if they are useful in some other way. In Cross and Guyer’s taxonomy, there are five classes of trap (including countertraps), together with a ‘hybrid’ category for traps comprising more than one of the others: time-delay traps, where the time lag between a behaviour and a reinforcer is too high for it to be effective, e.g. “the high school dropout who, avoiding the present pain and unpleasantness of school, finds himself later lacking the education which could have prepared him for a more rewarding job” (p.21); ignorance traps, in which people fail to make use of generally available knowledge when making a decision, but simply rely on immediate reinforcers or superstitions; sliding reinforcer traps, “patterns of behavior [which] continue long after the circumstances under which that behavior was appropriate have ceased to be relevant, producing negative consequences that would have been avoided easily had the behavior stopped earlier… The trap occurs because the rewards establish a habit which persists in the succeeding period” (p.25); externality traps, where “the reinforcements that are relevant to the first individual may not coincide with the returns received by the second… If Peter spends five minutes in a cafeteria line choosing his dessert, he does not suffer for it, but all the people waiting behind him certainly do” (p. 28); and collective traps, which involve tragedy-of-the-commons-type externality traps, involving reinforcers or consequences for multiple participants based on behaviour by one or more.

Cross and Guyer (1980, p.35) suggest ‘ways out’ of the traps, including their ‘conversion’ into trade-offs, “presenting the individual with a set of reinforcers that occur in close proximity to the behavior in question and which closely match the actual reward and punishment patterns that underly [sic.] the situation. The trap then becomes a simple choice situation in which rational and learned behavior are coincident. In some cases—particularly those of time-delay traps—this might be accomplished simply by altering the timing of reinforcers somehow bringing the punishment or proxy for the punishment into closer proximity with its causative behavior.” This could well be the principle behind a design approach to removing social traps, although it relies on being able to determine the structure of reinforcers and punishments which are affecting current behaviour, and somehow redesigning them accordingly.

Means and ends

Studer (1970, p.114-6) discussed applying operant conditioning principles to the design of environments (such as buildings), by treating them as “learning systems arranged to bring about and maintain specified behavioral topographies…What operant findings suggest, among other things, is that events which have traditionally been regarded as the ends in the design process, e.g., pleasant, exciting, comfortable, the participant’s likes and dislikes, should be reclassified. They are not ends at all, but valuable means, which should be skillfully ordered to direct a more appropriate over-all behavioral texture.”

Reconsidering means and ends in this way may provide a useful alternative perspective on design for behaviour change. What may be an end from the user’s perspective (some kind of reward for turning off unnecessary equipment, perhaps) effectively becomes the means by which the designer’s end (the user turns off unnecessary equipment) might be influenced. The designer’s intended end is the user’s means for achieving the user’s intended end (Figure 1). If the end the user desires can be aligned with the means available to the designer, then the behaviour is reinforced. The mapping between ends and means (in both directions) may not seem to be one-to-one on first inspection. For example, the user’s end probably reflects an underlying need—not examined further in a behaviourist context—and likewise with the designer’s end. ‘Receiving feedback on my energy use in the office’—a favourite designer’s means for influencing reduced energy use—is probably rarely expressed as a desired end from a user’s point of view, but if successful at reinforcing conservation behaviour, it presumably fulfils some underlying psychological needs.

Means and ends Figure 1. The designer’s end and user’s means may be seen as reflections of each other, and likewise with the designer’s means and user’s end. Based on ideas from Studer (1970).

As an informal warm-up exercise in a workshop run at the Persuasive 2010 conference in Copenhagen, the author asked participants (designers and others involved with planning persuasive technology interventions) to map some intended ends relating to socially beneficial behaviour change, and some of the means they could think of to achieve them (Figure 2), using the labels ‘People will do this…’ and ‘…if our design does this’ for ends and means respectively.

Viewing the designer’s means from the user’s point of view, as an end, sometimes involves the end being avoiding something rather than receiving something—i.e. negative reinforcement. It is debatable whether this has much value beyond being simply a warm-up exercise, but it does encourage designers to think about trying to align the ends desired by the user with the means available to the designer. Weinschenk (2011, p.120), in appealing to (mainly web) designers to consider operant conditioning as a strategy for influencing behaviour, asks, “Hungry rats want food pellets. What does your particular audience really want?”

Means and ends Figure 2. Some means-end pairings suggested by workshop participants in Copenhagen.

Impact of behaviourism

Despite many of behaviourism’s principles having been adopted in other fields—not just animal training but therapeutic applications (e.g. with autism), athletic training, programmed learning via ‘teaching machines’ (e.g. Kay et al, 1968), to the emerging self-help industry (Rutherford, 2009)—it was largely supplanted in the mainstream of academic psychology by the ‘cognitive revolution’ (e.g. Crowther-Heyck, 2005), re-emphasising cognition as something to be understood as a determinant of behaviour. Pask (1969, p.21) refers to “the arid conflict between behaviourism and mentalism,” while Ericsson and Simon (1985, p.1) suggest that “[a]fter a long period of time during which stimulus-response relations were at the focus of attention, research in psychology is now seeking to understand in detail the mechanisms and internal structure of cognitive processes that produce these relations.” Images of Skinner-like scientist figures peering at rats pressing levers to obtain food, with the implication that this was what was proposed for humanity, to some extent cast a shadow of ‘the psychologist as manipulator’ over subsequent work on behaviour change—as Pryor (2002, p. xiii) notes, “to people schooled in the humanistic tradition, the manipulation of human behavior by some sort of conscious technique seems incorrigibly wicked.” Winter and Koger (2004, p.116) suggest that “[s]inister motives are attributed to those who would implement behavioral technology, and Skinner himself has been badly misrepresented and misunderstood as a cold, cruel scientist”.

Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), which proposed a new society—“the design of a culture” based on a scientifically refined “technology of behaviour” reinforcing only behaviours which were beneficial to humanity, many of which were essentially about ensuring environmental sustainability—was widely read as promoting a totalitarian future. Chomsky (1971) suggested that “there is nothing in Skinner’s approach that is incompatible with a police state in which rigid laws are enforced by people who are themselves subject to them and the threat of dire punishment hangs over all,” and this view persists, although Skinner eschews the use of punishment in favour of reinforcement. Slater (2004, p. 28) argues that “Skinner is asking society to fashion cues that are likely to draw on our best selves, as opposed to cues that clearly confound us, cues such as those that exist in prisons, in places of poverty. In other words, stop punishing. Stop humiliating. Who could argue with that?”

In a later work, Skinner (1986) offers an explicit ‘design for sustainable behaviour’ view of the possibilities of intelligent use of operant conditioning:

“[W]e have the science needed to design a world…in which people treated each other well, not because of sanctions imposed by governments or religions but because of immediate, face-to-face consequences. It would be a world in which people produced the goods they needed, not because of contingencies arranged by a business or industry but simply because they were “goods” and hence directly reinforcing. It would be a beautiful and interesting world because making it so would be reinforced by beautiful and interesting things… It would be a world in which the social and commercial practices that promote unnecessary consumption and pollution had been abolished… A designed way of life would be liked by those who lived it (or the design would be faulty).” (Skinner, 1986, p. 11-12)

Rutherford (2009, p.102) notes that Skinner himself designed and “constructed a variety of gadgets and devices that allowed him to control his environment, and thus his behavior. For example for many years Skinner rose early to write, often going directly from his bed to his desk. He would then switch on his desk lamp, which was connected to a timer. When his writing time was up, the timer would switch off his desk lamp, signaling the end of the writing period… For Skinner, setting up environmental contingencies for personal self-management was a natural outcome of behavior analysis.”

Regardless of the position of behaviourism in current academic psychological discourse, there are certainly elements which are relevant to design for behaviour change; indeed, the principles of reinforcement can be seen at work underneath many designed interventions even if they are not explicitly recognised as such. As Skinner (1971) argued (see quote opening this section), the environment shapes our behaviour both before and after we take actions, antecedent and consequence (even the absence of a perceived consequence is a consequence, in this sense). This is an important point, since much work in behaviour change focuses on one or the other. A system designed to suggest or cue particular behaviours, and then reward or acknowledge them, covers both intervention points, particularly given the fact that much interaction with products and systems is part of a regular schedule, and users do learn how to operate things through an ongoing cycle of reinforcement: behaviour change does not necessarily happen in a single step. The concept of variable or unpredictable reinforcement has potential design application in situations where a reward cannot be given every time, and also (as noted by Schell (2008)) in the design of games and game-like features in other interactions. The idea of shaping behaviour towards an intended state through progressive rewards for improvements in behaviour rather than every time has relevance in changing habits, which can be important in (for example) establishing exercise and healthier eating routines.

Winter and Koger (2004, p.118) propose what a behaviourist approach to a sustainable society might involve in relation to influencing more environmentally friendly transport choices, which suggests a mixture of different kinds of reinforcement designed into the system: “All the cues encouraging driving alone would be gone. Nobody would be climbing into a car alone, cars would be expensive to operate and roads would be less convenient. People would live within walking or biking distance to their workplace, commute in groups, or use public transportation… Schools and shops would be arranged close by, allowing people to complete errands without the use of a car… We wouldn’t try to change out of moral responsibility or pro-environment attitudes. We would emit environmentally appropriate behaviors because the environment had been designed to support them.”

Implications for designers

▶ Behaviourism is no longer mainstream psychology, but some of the principles could have potential application in design for behaviour change

▶ There is a recognition that the environment shapes our behaviour both before and after we take actions—a useful insight for designing interventions

▶ There is also a recognition that behaviour change does not necessarily happen in a single step, but as part of an ongoing cycle of shaping

▶ Where cognition cannot be understood or examined, modelling users in terms of stimuli and responses may still offer valuable insights

▶ Positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment can all be implemented via designed features, and often underlie designed interventions without being explicitly named as such

▶ Schedules of reinforcement can be varied (e.g. made unpredictable) to drive continued behaviour

▶ Design could either exploit or help people avoid ‘social traps’ where both reinforcement and punishment exist, or reinforcement is currently misaligned with the behaviour, converting them into ‘trade-offs’ which more closely match the intended behavioural choices

▶ Considering means and ends may provide a useful perspective on design for behaviour change. The end from the user’s perspective effectively becomes the means by which the designer’s end might be influenced


Ashby, W.R. (1956) An Introduction to Cybernetics. Chapman & Hall, London Bateson, G., Jackson, D.D., Haley, J. and Weakland, J.H. (1956) Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia. Behavioral Science I(4) Bateson, G. (1969) Metalogue: What Is an Instinct? In Bateson, G. (1969) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. University of Chicago Press, Chicago Burgess, A. (1962) A Clockwork Orange. Heinemann, London Chomsky, N. (1971) The Case Against B.F. Skinner. The New York Review of Books, 30 Dec 1971 Costanza, R. (1987) Social traps and environmental policy. Bioscience 37(6) Cross, J.G. and Guyer, M.J. (1980) Social Traps. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Crowther-Heyck, H. (2005) Herbert A. Simon: The Bounds of Reason in Modern America. Johns Hopkins University Press Ericsson, K.A. and Simon, H.A. (1985) Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data. MIT Press Hardin, G. (1968) The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162. Kay, H., Dodd, B. and Sime, M.E. (1968) Teaching Machines and Programmed Instruction. Penguin Koestler, A. (1967) The Ghost in the Machine. Pask (1969) The meaning of cybernetics in the behavioural sciences (The cybernetics of behaviour and cognition; extending the meaning of "goal"). In Rose, J. (ed.) (1969) Progress of Cybernetics, Volume 1. Gordon and Breach Pavlov, I. (1927) Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. Translated by Anrep, G.V. Oxford University Press Platt, J. (1973) Social Traps. American Psychologist, 28 Pryor, K. (2002) Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training. Interpet Rutherford, A. (2009) Beyond the Box: B.F. Skinner's Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life, 1950s-1970s. University of Toronto Press Schell, J. (2008) The Art of Game Design. Morgan Kaufmann Skinner, B.F. (1953) Science and Human Behavior. The Free Press, New York. Skinner, B.F. (1971) Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner, B.F. (1986) Why we are not acting to save the world. In Skinner, B.F. Upon further reflection. Prentice-Hall Slater, L. (2004) Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychology Experiments of the Twentieth Century. Bloomsbury Sparks, J. (1982) The Discovery of Animal Behaviour. Collins. Studer, R.G. (1970) The Organization of Spatial Stimuli. In Pastalan, L.A. and Carson, D.H. (eds.), Spatial Behavior of Older People. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Watson, J.B. (1913) Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20 Weinschenk, S (2011) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. New Riders Winter D. du N. and Koger, S.M. (2004) The Psychology of Environmental Problems. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

B.F. Skinner photo from Banksy Rat photo from DG Jones on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC

A survey by Dan

As mentioned here, I've finally got round to putting a survey online to capture some people's experiences with using the Design with Intent cards. A few people have already very kindly filled in prototype versions of these questions in different contexts. So, if you've downloaded the cards, or used a printed version, and you have a spare few minutes, it would be very much appreciated if you could have a go at this survey - it's anonymous (if you like), all the questions are optional, and the whole thing should be quick to do. Your answers will help improve future versions, as well as helping to tie up my PhD thesis. I'm aware there are lots of ways the cards could be improved and made more useful (and usable). There are some quite exciting ideas that have been suggested, which I hope to be able to explore in the future.

Depending on how many responses there are, there'll be a few prizes for respondents drawn at random who've given their email address - most probably, some excellent books on design, user experience and behaviour.

Thanks for your time!

A note on surveys Surveys are both interesting and frustrating. In design - and probably in many more social-sciencey areas of academia in general - surveys of different kinds have become very common as a way of collecting insights and generating results (which can allow the demonstration of statistical analysis skills). I appreciate how valuable they can be. But as someone who fills in a lot of surveys and questionnaires that get sent to me, I know that as often executed, they really are a pretty imperfect way of capturing what people really think. (Quite apart from all the dark pattern-y ways they can be designed to influence the way people respond, which are of course worthy of study in themselves...)

The survey here is nothing special, but I've tried to minimise the elements that frustrate me: Likert scales for things that are difficult to assign a rating to; multiple pages so I can't see how much left there is to fill in; required questions or forced choices which force me into having an opinion about things I haven't thought enough about; and lack of an opportunity for me to explain more about bits that mean a lot to me. If you're interested, the questions are based on a kind of combination of Fred Reichheld's work and parts of the Kirkpatrick model.

End of the year by Dan

It's been a very very very busy year, and that's my main excuse for not blogging for far too long. There are many interesting people, interesting things and ideas and opportunities, and unresolved thoughts that need to be talked about, but haven't been. And many people who've got in touch that I just haven't got round to replying to. I apologise. For quite a while it's been easier to use Twitter than to blog here. That's a shame, but it's also enabled me to get to know (virtually or otherwise) a great group of very clever people. I've been to Copenhagen, Ghent, Delft and Enschede on Design with Intent-related business, as well as managing to go camping on the Isles of Scilly with Harriet, which was fantastic. As things are, in September I started a job as research assistant on EMPOWER, a collaboration between More Associates, Brunel* and Warwick University's WMG. With funding from the Technology Strategy Board and EPSRC, we're investigating a participatory, user-centred approach to designing more energy efficient behaviour in workplaces, with quite a high-profile 'client' organisation. The project builds on More's ongoing CarbonCulture work, and (potentially) allows some of the Design with Intent patterns to be applied and tested in a real context. It's a kind of fusion of building services, HCI, user experience, service design, product design, environmentally sensitive design, ergonomics and ethnography. As a Brunel employee, I suppose I probably now need to state (for the first time ever on this blog) that the opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

The bit of work I'm doing at present involves investigating building users' mental models of heating systems, which has some history in cognitive science and interaction design, as has been discussed here on the blog a few years ago. As I explored in my talk at Design for Persuasion in Ghent back in September, I've come to believe that better understanding people's mental models of systems with which they interact - and then deciding whether it's more appropriate to work with them, try to change them, or downright ignore them - is an important component of design for behaviour change. We need to understand the environmental (and mental) contexts in which people make decisions (or not) about what to do, and use that understanding appropriately. It seems clear that designers do have different models of 'what users are like' and 'how users think' - we explored some of this in a couple of workshops at UX London back in May, resulting in this paper [PDF] presented at ERSCP-EMSU in Delft in October. We need to bridge the gap between designers' models of the user, and users' models of the system. Which is pretty much what Don Norman was saying 25 years ago, of course, but often seems to be left out of current discourse on behaviour change. I have a suspicion that if we get this right, the whole attitude-behaviour morass becomes possible to understand through a kind of cybernetics / systems theory approach.

I haven't finished the PhD thesis yet. It was clearly a mistake from a sanity perspective to start working on EMPOWER before finishing the thesis write-up, but it was just the way the funding worked. But it does mean I'll be able to include results of a survey of DwI 1.0 users in the thesis - more on which I'll hopefully announce very soon.

On the subject of the DwI cards, as of this evening there have been around 130,000 downloads of the PDF that I can track, since it went online in April (together with an unknown number from people who've mirrored it elsewhere). I've also sold (or given away) 164 physical packs of cards to some very wonderful people. Zero profit, but it's a great feeling to know that those cards are on the shelf (or even being used!) in places all over the world. And it isn't just design consultancies and universities - in a current bit of freelance consultancy working with some clever people, a subset of the DwI patterns/gambits, with some additions, are being applied in the context of helping a local authority develop a 'behaviour change' capability.

When the PhD's done, I will certainly be writing about the experience. But I'm not going to do it yet.

The blog will return in a new and better form once this massive burden is out of the way. And I'll be doing some other things: amid all this research and writing, I realise how much I actually miss making things. 2011 needs to have some of that.

Thanks to everyone who's helped this year, from those who've blogged or tweeted about or downloaded or indeed bought the DwI cards, to everyone who's helped me progress my work via conferences and workshops and seminars and recommendations, to those who've helped me negotiate the endless paperwork that come with university-industry collaborations, to my PhD supervisors David and Neville, to people who've just come and said hello in real life after following the blog or seeing the cards online. And to family, and friends, and most of all, Harriet, for putting up with me. This phase won't be forever.

Good luck, everyone, for 2011.

*I believe they're sorting this website out sometime very soon. As diplomatically as I can put it, I would not have applied as an undergrad back in 1999 if Brunel Design's website looked like this. We had something much better, thanks to Len Breen.

by Dan

Apologies for the silence here, but I'm writing up my PhD thesis at present and trying to get as much as possible done before an exciting new project starts in August (which I will tell you about in due course!). I won't be able to get it all done before then, but am trying to get to a stage where the rest of it doesn't seem insurmountable. Writing up things you've been doing over the last 3 years is pretty boring. The trite advice given so often is to "write up as you go along" and while that might be partly wise, I've found that realistically, what I wrote 18 months ago is simply not usable in the thesis without massive alteration. Things change. The linear format of literature review -> planning the studies -> method -> results -> conclusion is very artificial when the studies you do end up leading you back to the literature, learning something else, doing more studies, and so on. I'm (re-)writing the literature review last of all in order to make it serve as a foundation for the later bits of the thesis, but I'm not entirely satisfied with this approach. It doesn't reflect how the work was actually done, which (to me) is an important part of science. But the need to produce a document which overall is a thesis rather than a story or collection of published papers (which is permissible in some countries) suggests that I need to put such concerns aside, at least for the moment. I suppose it depends on if your work falls neatly into sections or separate projects which are substantially independent, or not. Mine unfortunately hasn't worked out that way. Everything depends on everything else, pretty much.

So the blog may be quiet for another couple of months. And when it comes back, I think it needs something of a 5th-birthday-restructure to fit better with how it's actually used. In the meantime, thank you so much to everyone who's downloaded the latest Design with Intent cards or bought printed sets so far. You keep me motivated!

Design with Intent toolkit 1.0 now online by Dan

Design with Intent cards It's been a long time coming, but a year after v.0.9, the new Design with Intent toolkit, DwI v.1.0, is ready. Officially titled Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design, it's in the form of 101 simple cards, each illustrating a particular 'gambit' for influencing people's interactions with products, services, environments, and each other, via the design of systems. They're loosely grouped according to eight 'lenses' bringing different disciplinary perspectives on behaviour change.

The cards (Download them here) The intention is that the cards are useful at the idea generation stage of the design process, helping designers, clients and - perhaps most importantly - potential users themselves explore behaviour change concepts from a number of disciplines, and think about how they might relate to the problem at hand. Judging by the impact of earlier iterations, the cards could also be useful in stakeholder workshops, and design / technology / computer science education. Each gambit is phrased as a question, as used in Nedra Weinreich's worksheet based on DwI v.0.9, in the hope that the cards can actively provoke innovative behaviour change design ideas, while the new accompanying Design with Intent wiki can, in time, act as a kind of 'further reading' resource.

You can download the card deck, either the whole thing (ISBN 978-0-9565421-1-3) or individual sections, free of charge, but bear in mind this initial version is still something of a draft (with some typos and a few ugly alignment errors) and there are a few extra introductory cards which will be added over the next couple of weeks. So do come back and get the updated version when it's available.

Printed card decks (ISBN 978-0-9565421-0-6) will be available for mail order very soon, too: these will be sold at a price which just covers my costs. If you're going to UX London or Persuasive 2010 I hope to have some packs with me, so do let me know if you'd like me to reserve one for you. This isn't a commercial venture: it's part of my PhD and the more people who use the cards, the better (from my point of view). I will try to produce some alternative formats such as posters and worksheets, too, since I know cards aren't everyone's cup of tea.

UPDATE: Printed packs now available to order

The wiki The wiki is inspired partly by Crumlish & Malone's Designing Social Interfaces, a great book (and a neat companion to Jenifer Tidwell's incredible Designing Interfaces, also from O'Reilly) with a companion wiki which acts as an evolving, referenceable container for new examples, tips on implementation, data on effectiveness, and so on, as they come to light, as well as new patterns, new ways of grouping them and new uses for this kind of approach.

At present, the wiki is pretty basic and while I get to grips with the nuances of Mediawiki (and, of course, writing up my PhD thesis!) it's not open for general editing, but it will be in due course. I hope over time it will prove to be a valuable resource for people working in design for behaviour change, design for sustainable behaviour, persuasive technology, behavioural economics and other related areas. There are also a number of linked pages which I haven't written yet, but by putting them in as red links, they're a constant reminder for me to do them!

Your feedback Your comments are incredibly important to this project. I'll be putting a survey online very soon, but in the meantime, if you have any reactions, please do get in touch ( I'm aware that I haven't yet replied to everyone who took part in the earlier survey, for which I apologise.

UPDATE: 5-minute survey now online

The blog In the light of the new wiki, and coming towards the end of my PhD, the blog will change a bit during the summer - nothing will be lost, but I intend to incorporate a lot of the examples into the wiki, preserving people's comments. The various domain names and redirects need a bit of htaccess fun to sort out too! For the moment, though, it'll stay as chaotic as it is.

Thanks to everyone who's helped with the development of Design with Intent so far: I hope the wait for these cards has been worth it!

Learning from game design: 11 gambits for influencing user behaviour by Dan

Games are great at engaging people for long periods of time, getting them involved, and, if we put it bluntly, influencing people's behaviour through their very design. Something conspicuously missing from Design with Intent v.0.9 is a satisfactory treatment of the kinds of techniques for influencing user behaviour that can be derived from games and other 'playful' interactions. I hope to remedy this in DwI 1.0, so here's a preview of the eleven patterns I've included in the new Ludic Lens on behaviour change: patterns drawn from games or modelled on more playful forms of influencing behaviour. These aren't original, by any means. People such as Amy Jo Kim (see her great presentation 'Putting the fun in functional'), Sebastian Deterding, Francisco Inchauste, Jeremy Keith, Geke Ludden, and of course Ian Bogost have done work which explores this area from lots of different angles, and it also draws on decades of research in social psychology. Russell Davies' Playful (which I really should have gone to!) looks like it was very pertinent here too. (Note, this lens doesn't cover Game Theory-like patterns, some of which are indeed relevant to influencing user behaviour, but which I've chosen to group under a new 'Machiavellian Lens')

My main interest here is to extract the design techniques as very simple design patterns or 'gambits'* that can be applied in other design situations outside games themselves, where designers would like to influence user behaviour (along with the other Design with Intent techniques). So these are (at least at present) presented simply as provocations: a "What if...?" question plus an example. The intention is that the card deck version will simply have what you see here, while the online version will have much more detail, references, links and reader/user-contributed examples and comments.

Challenges & targets, Santa Barbara beachChallenges & targets

What happens if you set people a challenge, or give them a target to reach through what they're doing?

« Whoever laid out this coffee tub as a target for throwing coins knew a lot about influencing people to donate generously and enjoy it


Unpredictable reinforcement, Teignmouth, DevonUnpredictable reinforcement

What happens if you give rewards or feedback on an unpredictable schedule, so users keep playing or interacting?

Arcade games such as this coin pusher usually employ a strong element of unpredictable reinforcement, to keep users playing/paying »


Scores - Nintendo Brain AgeScores

Can you give users feedback on their actions as a score or rating allowing comparison to a reference point?

« The ‘Brain Age’ score given by Dr Kawashima’s games for Nintendo gives users a clear incentive to keep using the software


Levels - FarmvilleLevels

Can you split your system up into achievable levels which help users feel like they’re making progress?

Easy-to-reach levels lower the barriers to participation and encourage continued engagement for games such as FarmVille »


Rewards, Kai's Power ToolsRewards

Can you encourage users to take up or continue a behaviour by rewarding it, through the design of the system?

« Kai’s Power Tools (pioneering visual effects software) revealed ‘bonus functions’ to reward users who developed their skill level


Playfulness - Spiral Wishing WellPlayfulness

Can you design something which ‘plays’ with its users, provoking curiosity or making interactions into a game?

Spiral wishing wells turn giving money to charity into something actively fun for donors, and provoke curiosity of passers-by »


Storytelling - Dyson bookletsStorytelling

Can you tell a story via your design, which interests users and keeps them engaged?

« Dyson uses narrative booklets drawing customers (and potential customers) into the story behind the company and its technology


Leave gaps to fill - MediawikiLeave gaps to fill

Can you leave deliberate gaps (in a design, message, etc) which users will want to fill, becoming engaged in the process?

Deliberate use of red links on Wikipedia, signifying articles which should be written, “encourage[s] new contributors in useful directions” »


Roleplaying - Tio by Tim HolleyRole-playing

What happens if your system gives users particular roles to play, or makes them feel like they’re playing a role?

« Tim Holley’s Tio encourages children to become ‘energy champions’ for their household, influencing parental behaviour


Collections - UbiFit GardenCollections

What happens if you encourage users to collect a set of things (friends, activities, places, objects, etc) through using your system?

UbiFit Garden encourages users to maintain a regular variety of exercise activities, in order to ‘collect’ different types of flower »


Make it a meme - ShareThisMake it a meme

What happens if you plan your design to be something people want to spread, and make it easy for them to do so?

« ShareThis and similar quick-access social sharing services can mean rapid ‘viral’ or ‘meme’ status for interesting or amusing stories


The text and examples aren't quite fixed yet, so any comments and feedback on the above are very welcome.

Spiral wishing well photograph courtesy of Steve Divnick - see this video if you don't believe the power of the well; UbiFit Garden images from DUB at University of Washington; ShareThis Chicken Poncho screenshot from this listing on Regretsy; Tio image from Tim Holley.

*I've decided to start using Bryan Lawson's 'gambit' terminology [PDF], if only to recognise that at least at present, DwI is not really a proper pattern language, as Sally Fincher comments here.

What's happening with the toolkit (Part 1) by Dan

Design with Intent cards v.0.9 It's 8 months since the Design with Intent Toolkit v.0.9 went online and I've had incredibly useful feedback from a whole range of people who've tried it out on different kinds of briefs and problems. As mentioned a couple of months ago, the toolkit poster PDF (which has 12 'headline' design patterns, compared with the 47 in total online) reached a very high number of downloads from Brunel's research archive website (before the admins removed the statistics package!), which is immensely pleasing and kind of humbling. If you downloaded it and found it useful (or not useful), please do get in touch and tell me why.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9Design with Intent cards v.0.9

Latterly, a few people have been trying out an IDEO Method Card-style card deck version of the toolkit (as pictured here), including all the patterns, colour-coded by lens, with a simplified bit of text about each one. I haven't made these available publicly mainly because the quality isn't great (most of the images are only 72dpi, coming from the website, and poorly cropped for the card format), and I've been trying a couple of variations of text, card size, etc. Initially I put these together primarily for quick card-sorting exercises as part of the workshop trials I've been running, but they ended up more popular than the poster format. Thanks to brainstorming sessions at IDEO London and the RSA, exercises with Brunel's MSc Integrated Product Design and BSc / BA Design students (as part of the Sustainable Design and Environmentally Sensitive Design modules), and a trial as part of Design for Conversion kindly organised by Arjan Haring, I now have a better idea of what would make the cards more useful. In parallel, I've also been trying to 'patternize' some additional design techniques which have been used to influence behaviour, to increase the scope of the toolkit.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9 in use at Design for ConversionDesign with Intent cards v.0.9 in use at Design for Conversion The DwI cards in use at Design for Conversion - photos by haijeson on Flickr (1, 2)

Inspired partly by Crumlish & Malone's Designing Social Interfaces which is a great book (a neat companion to Jenifer Tidwell's incredible Designing Interfaces, also from O'Reilly) with a companion wiki, I've decided to go down the route of producing v.0.95 of the toolkit as a Creative Commons-licensed set of 100 downloadable cards, with a printed version available to buy, and an accompanying wiki with a page on each pattern, serving as an evolving, referenceable container for new examples, tips on implementation, data on effectiveness, and so on, as they come to light, as well as new patterns, new ways of grouping them and new uses for this kind of approach.

The cards will be relatively simple, with each pattern posed as a question, as used in Nedra Weinreich's DwI-based worksheet. The intention is that the cards can actively provoke innovative behaviour change design ideas, with a single (hopefully photogenic) example on each, while the wiki can act as a kind of 'further reading' resource. A future version (v.1.0?) of the cards will include this extra information on the back of each card (and then binding the cards together would pretty much produce a book), but at this stage - if I'm ever going to get this PhD finished in time - the extra info will be added to the wiki over time rather than being on the v.0.95 cards themselves, to reduce the time pressure on getting it all done.

As v.0.95 more than doubles the number of patterns in v.0.9 - a mixture of splitting up existing patterns into more finely-grained variants, and adding ideas which people have suggested or pointed out since I put v.0.9 together - there are quite a few where I don't (yet) have a very good example or image. As such, there are opportunities for anyone with good photos or suggestions for examples to have an input and be involved - as the next post will explain in more detail.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9Design with Intent cards v.0.9 A version of the card deck I (rather laboriously!) spray-mounted onto Post-It backing, so the cards could be used to annotate sketches or ideas recorded during a brainstorming session.

What's been going on recently by Dan

The RSA House, LondonRSA Design Directions 2009/10

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

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

Design Approach worksheet by Nedra Kline WeinreichDesign Approach worksheet

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

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

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

Design for Persuasion, Brussels Design for Persuasion conference, Brussels

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

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

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

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

BURA stats A pleasing statistic

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

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

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

Thanks again for making the DwI toolkit a success!

Things which slipped by without me writing about them much here

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

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

September workshop sessions: invitation by Dan

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your help!

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

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

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

A survey for designers: more books to win by Dan

Following last week's card-sorting exercise (which went really well - thanks to everyone who took part), here's something a bit more open-ended and ongoing. I'm trying to find out how designers and design teams (in-house or consultancies) who've worked on influencing user behaviour think about what they've done - which techniques and patterns do people recognise that they've used, or considered? Do the patterns I've identified in the toolkit actually make sense to people who've put this stuff into practice strategically? Or do people think about it differently?

So, if you've worked on persuasive technology, behaviour change design, or influencing user behaviour in general, across any field where you consider that you're designing stuff (service design, product design, interaction design, social design, user experience, information architecture, HCI, social marketing, mobile interaction, web design, network engineering, pervasive/ubiquitous computing, transformation design, advertising, urban planning, human factors, ergonomics, built environments, healthcare, environmental, safety, crime prevention - anything, in fact), I'd really appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to have a go at this survey. It shouldn't take too long unless you have a lot to tell me about! DwI Cards 'Designers thinking about the effect they can have on behaviour' is a growing theme. The idea with this survey is that if we can collect together some good examples of where and how companies are using these ideas, what's worked and what hasn't (and why) (where you're prepared to talk about it!), it'll be a useful reference for everyone, as well as (potentially) a series of great case studies to be included in a book (at some point once my PhD's out of the way). In the meantime, I'll of course try to feature some of the projects on the blog.

If you take part in the survey, your details will go into a draw to win a classic book on design and behaviour (I'll do one draw for every 20 participants). I'm not sure what the books will be yet, but there's a lot to choose from. The survey doesn't really have a closing date at present - I'll leave it open as long as it's getting interest.

Thanks for your help!

Sort some cards and win a copy of The Hidden Dimension by Dan

The Hidden Dimension UPDATE: Thanks everyone - 10 participants in just a few hours! The study's closed now - congratulations to Ville Hjelm whose book is now on its way...

If you've got a few minutes spare, are interested in the Design with Intent techniques, and fancy having a 1/10 chance of winning a brand-new copy of The Hidden Dimension, Edward T Hall's classic 1966 work on proxemics (very worthwhile reading if you're involved in any way with the design of environments, either architecturally or in an interaction design sense), then please do have a go at this quick card-sorting exercise [now closed].

It makes use of the pinball / shortcut / thoughtful user models I introduced in the last post, so it would probably make sense to have that page open alongside the exercise. The DwI techniques will be presented to you distinct from the 'lenses' (Errorproofing, Cognitive etc) so don't worry about them.

The free WebSort account I'm using for this only allows 10 participants, so be quick and get a chance of winning the book! Once 10 people have done it, I'll draw one of the participants out of some kind of hat or bucket and email you to get your postal address.

The purpose here (a closed card-sort, to use Donna Spencer's terminology) is, basically, to find out whether the pinball / shortcut / thoughtful models allow the DwI techniques to be assigned to particular ways of thinking about users - that make sense to a reasonable proportion of designers. There's no right or wrong answer, but if 80% of you tell me that one technique seems to fit well with one model, while for another there's no agreement at all, then that's useful for me to know in developing the method.

Thanks for your help!

Card sorting

Cover photo from Amazon

Coming up for air, briefly by Dan

Thanks for all the responses to the Design with Intent Toolkit - it's got a heartening reception from lots of very interesting people, and has brought some great opportunities. I hope to be able to deal with all this effectively! Thanks too to all the people who've blogged about it, included it in a podcast, and spread it via Twitter. Your attention's much appreciated and if anyone does try it out on some problems, please do let me know how you get on, what would improve it, and so on. And more examples for each of the patterns are, of course, always welcome!

Printed copies (A2 poster, 135gsm silk finish) are available - the nominal listing on Amazon is £15 including postage, but if you'd like one for much less than that, let me know! (In fact, if you're willing to try it out on a design problem, fill in a survey about how you did it, and let me use it as a brief case study, you can have it free.)

Persuasive 2009

I say I'm just coming up for air briefly, as for the last couple of weeks, among some other major work (which could possibly bear some very nice fruit), I've been putting together my presentation* for Persuasive 2009, the Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology in Claremont, California, next week, and at present am desperately trying to finish a lot of other things before flying out on Saturday. It'll be my first time across the Atlantic and my girlfriend and I will be having a bit of a holiday afterwards, so I hope a lack of updates and replies, while little different to my usual pattern, will be excusable. But while the conference is on, if there's time and no hoo-hah with the wireless and it seems appropriate, I'll try and do a bit of blogging, or more likely, Twittering about it (#persuasive2009 ?). There are some very interesting people presenting their work.

Anyway, if you missed the update to my earlier post, a preprint version of my paper (with David Harrison, Tim Holley and Neville A. Stanton), Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method [PDF, 1.6MB] is available. At some point soon this version of the paper will downloadable from Brunel’s research archive, while the ‘proper’ version will be available in the ACM Digital Library. ACM requires me to state the following alongside the link to the preprint:

© ACM, 2009. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library. ISBN 978-1-60558-376-1.

The presentation will include many parts of the paper, but the nature of academic papers like this (submitted in December) is that they are out of date before anyone reads them. So, much of the presentation will be about the DwI toolkit and the reasoning behind bits of it, rather than just sticking to the state of the research six months ago - I hope that's reasonable. Last year, presenting on the last day of the conference meant that I was able to spend many hours in a hotel room in Oulu editing and re-editing the presentation (mostly listening to the Incredible Bongo Band's version of In-a-Gadda-da-Vida on repeat) to match what I thought the audience would like, and incorporate things I'd learned during the conference, but this time I'm on the first day so there isn't that opportunity...

Interfaces article

Also this month, I have a brief article about my research in Interfaces, the magazine of Interaction, the British Computer Society's HCI Group, in its 'My PhD' series (p. 20-21). Interfaces no. 78 is available to download here (make sure to click on the link below the cover image, as - at time of writing - the cover's linked to the previous issue). It's a great magazine - redesigned for this issue - with some really interesting features about aspects of HCI by some well-known names in the field. Thanks to Eduardo Calvillo and Stephen Hassard for making the article possible.

The table in the article was unfortunately truncated during editing so (if I get it in in time) there'll be a brief addendum in the next issue with the full table, but I might as well make it available here too [PDF, 8kb] - it's a brief, not especially exciting summary of some concepts for influencing householders to close curtains at night to save energy. (At some point I'll do a full case study on this as there are some interesting ideas as well as some very impractical ones.)

*Taking Parkinson's Law as an instruction manual seems to be a perpetual habit of mine, so the maximum time allocated to get the presentation done has been more than entirely taken up by getting the presentation done... it's still not quite there, and I'm not sure whether the format of the auditorium's going to allow an interactive element which I would very much like to include but probably won't be able to. Also - while Prezi looks like it might be everything I've ever wanted in presentation software - the workflow of "doing a PowerPoint" for me has evolved into a long chain of "Photoshop - Illustrator - export - Photoshop - Save for Web - insert into PowerPoint" which I'm sure I could do more quickly, but lots of conferences and seminars want PPTs rather than PDFs, and the only Mac I have (which once - kind of - belonged to the Duke of Edinburgh [interesting story]) is too slow and old to run anything better.

Security Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Security Lens represents a ‘security’ worldview, i.e. that undesired user behaviour is something to deter and/or prevent though ‘countermeasures’ designed into products, systems and environments, both physically and online, with examples such as digital rights management.

From a designer’s point of view, this can be an ‘unfriendly’ - and in some circumstances unethical - view to take, effectively treating users as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. However, thinking more closely about the patterns, it's possible to think of ways that they could be applied to help users control their own habits or behaviour for their own benefit - encouraging exercise, reducing energy use, and so on.


“What do I do when other people might be watching?”

■ If people think others can see what they’re doing, they often change their behaviour in response, through guilt, fear of censure, embarrassment or another mechanism

■ Techniques range from monitoring users’ actions with reporting to authorities, to simpler ‘natural surveillance’, where the layout of an area allows everyone to see what each other is doing. Statistics making public details about users’ contributions to a fund might fit in here too. Surveillance can benefit the user where monitoring allows a desired intervention, e.g. a fall alarm for the elderly

CCTV warning signSecurity lighting

Examples: The ubiquitous CCTV—or the threat of it—and security lighting, are both intended to influence user behaviour, in terms of being a deterrent to crime in the first place

Constraining behaviourThis pattern is about constraining user behaviour.


“I can’t hang around here with that racket going on”

■ Use (or removal) of ambient sensory effects (sound, light, smell, taste, etc) to influence user behaviour

■ Atmospherics can be ‘discriminatory’, i.e. targeted at particular classes of users, based on some characteristic enabling them to be singled out - such as the pink lights supposed to make teenagers with acne too embarrassed to hang around - or ‘blanket’, i.e. targeted at all users, e.g. Bitrex, a bitter substance, used to discourage drinking weedkiller or biting your nails.

The Mosquito anti-teenager sound weapon Blue lighting

Examples: Two examples of ‘discriminatory’ atmospherics: the Mosquito emits a 17.4 kHz tone to drive away young people from public places; blue lighting is used in some public toilets to discourage drug injection by making veins difficult to see Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour... Motivating behaviourbut can also motivate a user, e.g. pleasant sensations such as the fresh bread smell used in supermarkets can encourage purchases.

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Threat of damage

“That's going to hurt”

■ It's not nice, but the threat of damage (or injury) lies behind many measures designed to influence behaviour, from tyre damage spikes to barbed wire, electric fences, shards of glass cemented into the top of walls, and so on.

■ In some cases the threat alone is hoped to be enough to dissuade particular behaviours; in others, it's expected that some mild injury or discomfort will occur but put people off doing it again. Warnings are often used (and may be legally required), but this is not always the case.

Pig ear skate stopper

Example: Various kinds of 'skate stopper' in public places, such as this so-called pig ear are designed to cause damage to skateboards (and injury to skateboarders) to dissuade them from skating an area.

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What you have

“Insert passcard now”

■ ‘What you have’ relies on a user possessing a certain tool or device to enable functionality or gain access.

■ Aside from the obvious (keys, passcards, dongles and so on), there are, for example, specialised screwdrivers for security screws, which rely (largely unsuccessfully) on the distribution channels being kept private. Money itself could be seen as an example of this, especially where it's intentionally restricted to influence behaviour (e.g. giving children a certain amount of pocket money to limit what they can buy.)

Train tickets

Example: When they're actually checked, rail or other travel tickets restrict journeys to people who have the right ticket

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What you know or can do

“Enter password”

■ ‘What you know or can do’ relies on the capabilities of users - some information or ability which only a subset of users can provide. The most obvious examples are passwords and exams (e.g. driving tests) - testing users’ knowledge / understanding before ‘allowing’ them to perform some behaviour. Often one capability stands as a proxy for another, e.g. CAPTCHAs separating humans from automated bots.

■ These are often interlocks - e.g. breathalyser interlocks on car ignitions, or, one stage further, the ‘puzzle’ interlocks tested during the 1970s, where a driver had to complete an electronic puzzle before the car would start, thus (potentially) catching tiredness or drug use as well as intoxication.

Childproof lid

Example: Childproof lids on bottles of potentially dangerous substances - such as this weedkiller - help prevent access by children, but can also make it difficult for adults with limited dexterity.

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Who you are

“If the glove fits...”

■ Design based on ‘who you are’ intends to allow or prevent behaviour based on some criteria innate to each individual or group - usually biometric - which can't be acquired by others.

■ The aim is usually strong denial of access to anyone not authenticated, but there are also cases of primarily self-imposed ‘who you are’ security, such as the Mukurtu system, stamping ‘Confidential’ on documents, and so on.

Fingerprint scanner - photo by Josh Bancroft on Flickr

Example: Fingerprint scanners are becoming increasingly common on computer hardware.

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What you've done

“Do 10 minutes more exercise to watch this show”

■ Systems which alter the options available to users based on their current / past behaviour are increasingly easy to imagine as the technology for logging and tracking actions becomes easier to include in products (see also Surveillance). Products which ration people's use, or require some 'work' to achieve a goal, fit in here.

■ These could simply ‘lock out’ someone who has abused/misused a system (as happens with various anti-spam systems), or, more subtly, could divide users into classes based on their previous behaviour and provide different levels of functionality in the future.

Square Eyes by Gillian Swan

Example: Gillian Swan's Square Eyes restricts children's TV viewing time based on the amount of exercise they do (measured by these special insoles)

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Where you are

“This function is disabled for your current location”

■ ‘Where you are’ security selectively restricts or allows a user functions based on a user’s location

■ Examples include buildings intended to have no mobile phone reception (perhaps ‘for security reasons’, or maybe for the benefit of other users, e.g. in a cinema), and IP address geographic filtering, where website users identified as being in different countries are given access to different content.

Trolley wheels lock when taken outside car park

Example: Some supermarket trolleys have devices fitted to lock the wheels, mechanically or electronically when taken outside a defined area. Less high-tech versions have also been used!


Photos/screenshots by Dan Lockton except fingerprint scanner by Josh Bancroft and Square Eyes photo from Brunel University press office.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens

Visual Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Visual Lens combines ideas from product semantics, semiotics, ecological psychology and Gestalt psychology about how users perceive patterns and meanings as they interact with the systems around them.
These techniques are often applied by interaction designers without necessarily considering how they can influence user behaviour.

Prominence & visibility

“You can’t miss it”

■ Design certain elements so they’re more prominent, obvious, memorable or visible than others, to direct users’ attention towards them, making it easier for users to pick up the message intended, or pick the ‘best’ options from a set of choices

■ Simple prominence is one of the most basic design principles for influencing user behaviour, but visibility can also include using transparency strategically as part of a system—drawing users’ attention to elements which would otherwise be hidden

Rising bollard signWarning sign

Examples: The most important warning signs should be the most prominent—if a user only has time to take in one message, it should be the one that matters the most (above)

A Dyson vacuum’s transparent chamber makes forgetting to empty it unlikely, thus keeping the effectiveness of the cleaner high and improving user satisfaction (below)

Dyson transparent chamber - photo by Skylar Primm

Enabling behaviourThis pattern is about enabling user behaviour: making it easier to make certain choices


“This reminds me of one of those, so I expect it works that way too”

■ Use design elements from a context the user understands in a new system, to imply how it should be used; make it easy for users to understand a new system in terms they already understand

■ There’s a danger of oversimplification, or misleading users about the consequences of actions, if metaphor use is taken to extremes; it can also trap users in old behaviour patterns

Mac desktop

Examples: Everyday software interfaces (above and below left) combine hundreds of metaphors, from the ‘desktop’, ‘folders’ and ‘trash/recycle bin’ themselves to the icons used for graphics functions such as zoom (magnifying glass), eyedropper and so on. Ford’s SmartGauge (below right) uses ‘leaves’ to represent efficiency of a user’s driving style

Adobe paletteFord Smartgauge

Enabling behaviourMetaphors are mainly about enabling user behaviour... motivating behaviourbut can also motivate a user to 'know' by increasing mindful understanding of how best to use a system.

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Perceived affordances

“Looks like you use it this way...”

Perceived affordances are what it looks like we can do with something. A button looks like we should push it; a door with a handle looks like we should pull it, whereas a door with a plate looks like we should push it. This is fundamental to interaction design, and in influencing user behaviour, since the actions a design 'suggests' to a user will probably be carried out. (There may be hidden affordances too.)

■ Related ideas include mappings - laying out controls so they relate intuitively to the functions they control - and perceived constraints, what users perceive they can't do with something.

Door handle suggests it should be pulled

Example: Where a door has a handle, we assume we should pull it. When this isn't the case, usability suffers!

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Implied sequences

“Easy as 1,2,3...”

■ Presenting items in an implied sequence suggests to users that they should be used / experienced in order. Remember that in while in western countries, our reading direction leads us to assume sequences go left-to-right, in other cultures right-to-left may be the norm, e.g. this Hebrew version of the Mozilla browser with right-facing "back" arrow and left-facing "forward" arrow.

■ The sequence of choices can also suggest levels of priority / hierarchy - there's a small advantage for candidates who are listed first on a ballot paper [PDF]. The order in which options are revealed can also be important, both in terms of what people remember and how they make comparisons

Toggle switches by trancedmoogle

Example: Rows of switches such as these can suggest a sequential form of operation

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Possibility trees

“What route should I take?”

■ Possibility trees show users what routes they can follow to achieve a goal, or what results different behaviours can lead to. The way these are presented, via instructions, an interface, or even signage or maps - wayfinding (e.g. these Transport for London studies) - can influence the choices users make. .

They can be used strategically: showing users the routes that planners would prefer them to take, or the actions that designers would like users to take.

The London Underground map

Example: Once people have become used to using a highly stylised map to plan journeys, such as the London Underground map here, it can affect perceptions of places' location in real life. For example, Willesden Junction and North Acton stations are a 10-15 minute walk apart, but the distortion introduced by the map suggests that the distance is much further, which in turn can influence the transport choices people make.

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“Taking (or showing) ownership”

■ In this context, watermarking means making the ownership (or background) of something evident to users. If people feel they own a device, through some kind of personalisation or acknowledgement that it's theirs, they will often use it differently to when it seems like it belongs to someone else.

■ One application of this to influencing behaviour is to make it clear or obvious that some shared resources belong to everyone, or to the community, rather than no-one in particular.

Writing on packaging to 'watermark' it with the purchaser's name

Example: A Gloucestershire shopkeeper has taken to writing customers' names on the packaging of snacks they buy, to encourage them not to litter by 'taking ownership' - it has apparently been especially successful with children.

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Proximity & similarity

“Those look like they go together”

■ Users will tend to perceive that design elements (buttons, controls etc) which look similar, or are arranged together, will have similar functions or work together as a group (Gestalt proximity and similarity).

■ This can be used strategically to influence user behaviour as a kind of framing technique: group functions that you want users to perceive as going together, or give the controls similar shapes or colours. Likewise, introducing deliberate discontinuity or separation between elements can lead users to treat them very differently.

Group of 6 switches

Example: Bringing light switches together like this allows them all to be switched off at once more easily when leaving a room, but can work against the intuitive mapping linking each switch to the lights it controls.

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Colour & contrast

“I simply chose the one that stood out the most”

■ Use colour and visual contrast to influence users' perceptions and moods, suggest associations between particular behaviours and outcomes, and cause users to notice important elements or information (remembering that colour-blindness affects many millions of users, and so has implications for designers)

■ While some research shows that certain colours can have direct effects on behaviour in certain situations (e.g. the colour of pills), the evidence in general is weaker than is sometimes implied. Nevertheless, clever use of colour can help, support and guide user decision-making and so influence behaviour.

Baker-Miller pink

Example: Baker-Miller Pink or "drunk-tank pink" was developed through trials in prisons where painting a cell this colour was found, in certain circumstances, to reduce inmates' aggression.


Photos/screenshots by Dan Lockton except Dyson by Skylarprimm, toggle switches by trancedmoogle, Ford Smartgauge from Ford promotional material on Jalopnik, shopkeeper writing on packet from BBC News story; London Underground map screenshot from Transport for London website.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens

Errorproofing Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Errorproofing Lens represents a worldview treating deviations from the target behaviour as ‘errors’ which design can help avoid, either by making it easier for users to work without making errors, or by making errors impossible in the first place.

This view on influencing behaviour is often found in health & safety-related design, medical device design and manufacturing engineering. More commentary...


“What happens if I leave the settings how they are?”

■ Choose ‘good’ default settings and options, since many users will stick with them, and only change them if they feel they really need to (see Rajiv Shah's work, Thaler & Sunstein and Goldstein at al [PDF article preview] for more detailed examinations of defaults and their impacts)

■ How easy or hard it is to change settings, find other options, and undo mistakes also contributes to user behaviour here

Default print quality settings Donor card

Examples: With most printer installations, the default print quality is usually not ‘Draft’, even though this would save users time, ink and money. In the UK, organ donation is ‘opt-in’: the default is that your organs will not be donated. In some countries, an ‘opt-out’ system is used, which can lead to higher rates of donation

Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour... Enabling behaviourbut can also enable a user to make the 'right' choice.


“That doesn’t work unless you do this first”

■ Design the system so users have to perform actions in a certain order, by preventing the next operation until the first is complete: a forcing function

■ Can be irritating or helpful depending on how much it interferes with normal user activity—e.g. seatbelt-ignition interlocks have historically been very unpopular with drivers

Interlock on microwave oven door Interlock on ATM - card returned before cash dispensed

Examples: Microwave ovens don’t work until the door is closed (for safety). Most cash machines don’t dispense cash until you remove your card (so it’s less likely you forget it) Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour.

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Lock-in & Lock-out

“This operation cannot be stopped right now”

■ Keep an operation going (lock-in) or prevent one being started (lock-out) - a forcing function

■ Can be helpful (e.g. for safety or improving productivity, such as preventing accidentally cancelling something) or irritating for users (e.g. diverting the user’s attention away from a task, such as unskippable DVD adverts before the movie)

Right-click disabled

Example: Some websites 'disable' right-clicking to try (misguidedly) to prevent visitors saving images.

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Extra step

“Are you sure?”

■ Introduce an extra step, either as a confirmation (e.g. an "Are you sure?" dialogue) or a ‘speed-hump’ to slow a process down or prevent accidental errors - another forcing function. Most everyday poka-yokes ("useful landmines") are examples of this pattern

■ Can be helpful, but if used excessively, users may learn “always click OK”

British Rail train door extra step

Example: Train door handles requiring passengers to lower the window

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Specialised affordances

“It only fits one way round”

■ Design elements so that they can only be used in particular contexts or arrangements

Format lock-in is a subset of this: making elements (parts, files, etc) intentionally incompatible with those from other manufacturers; rarely user-friendly design

Bevel corners on various media cards and disks

Example: The bevelled corner on SIM cards, memory cards and floppy disks ensures that they cannot be inserted the wrong way round

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Partial self-correction

“Did you mean...?”

■ Design systems which partially correct errors made by the user, or suggest a different action, but allow the user to undo or ignore the self-correction – e.g. Google’s “Did you mean…?” feature

■ An alternative to full, automatic self-correction (which does not actually influence the user’s behaviour)

Partial self-correction (with an undo) on eBay

Example: eBay self-corrects search terms identified as likely misspellings or typos, but allows users the option to ignore the correction

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“That's the size it comes in”

■ Use the size of ‘portion’ to influence how much users consume: unit bias means that people will often perceive what they’re provided with as the ‘correct’ amount

■ Can also be used explicitly to control the amount users consume, by only releasing one portion at a time, e.g. with soap dispensers

Snack portion packs

Example: 'Portion packs' for snacks aim to provide customers with the 'right' amount of food to eat in one go

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Conditional warnings

“It's warning me I haven't put my seatbelt on”

■ Detect and provide warning feedback (audible, visual, tactile) if a condition occurs which the user would benefit from fixing (e.g. upgrading a web browser), or if the user has performed actions in a non-ideal order

■ Doesn’t force the user to take action before proceeding, so not as ‘strong’ an errorproofing method as an interlock.

Seatbelt warning light

Example: A seatbelt warning light does not force the user to buckle up, unlike a seatbelt-ignition interlock.


Photos/screenshots by Dan Lockton except seatbelt warning image (composite of photos by Zoom Zoom and Reiver) and donor card photo by Adrienne Hart-Davis.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens

Persuasive Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Persuasive Lens represents the emerging field of persuasive technology, where computers, mobile phones and other systems with interfaces are used to persuade users: changing attitudes and so changing behaviour through contextual information, advice and guidance. The patterns here are based mainly on ideas from BJ Fogg's Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do and related work.

The major applications so far have been in influencing behaviour for social benefit, e.g. persuading people to give up bad habits, adopt healthier lifestyles or reduce their energy use.


“How is my behaviour affecting the system?”

■ Give the user feedback on the impact of the way a product is being used, or how well he or she is doing relative to a target or goal

■ Self-monitoring can involve real-time feedback on the consequences of different behaviours, so that the ‘correct’ next step can immediately be taken, but in other contexts, ‘summary’ monitoring may also be useful, such as giving the user a report of behaviour and its efficacy over a certain period. Over time, this can effectively ‘train’ the user into a better understanding of the system

Energy meters

Examples: Energy meters (above) of many kinds allow householders to see which appliances use the most electricity, and how much this is costing, whether or not they choose to act.

GreenPrint, a ‘better print preview’, provides users (and, in an office context, their bosses!) with a summary of the resources it’s helped save, environmentally and financially (below)

Greenprint report

Enabling behaviourThis pattern is about enabling user behaviour: making it easier to make certain choices


“What’s the best action for me to take right now?”

■ Suggest a behaviour to a user at the ‘opportune’ moment, i.e. when it would be most efficient or the most desirable next step to take

■ Often a system can ‘cue’ the suggested behaviour by reminding the user; suggestions can also help steer users away from incorrect behaviour next time they use the system, even if it’s too late this time

Automatic speed display

Examples: Automatic warning signs (above) can alert drivers to upcoming dangers at the right point for them to respond and slow down accordingly

Volvo once offered a gearchange suggestion light (below), helping drivers drive more efficiently and save fuel

Volvo gearchange suggestion light

Enabling behaviourKairos can be about enabling user behaviour at exactly the right moment... motivating behaviourbut can also motivate a user by increasing mindfulness right before action is taken.

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“Just one click away...”

■ Simplification of tasks – thoughtful reduction in John Maeda's terminology – makes it easier for users to follow the intended behaviour.

■ Using ‘shortcuts’ to remove cognitive load from the user (e.g. energy labels) can be very powerful, but be aware of the manipulation potential (see also framing). By removing stages where the user has to think about what he or she's doing, you may also risk creating exactly the kind of mindless interaction that lies behind many of the problems you may be trying to solve!

Eco Button

Example: The Eco Button reduces the steps needed to put a computer into a low-power state, thus making it much easier for users to save energy.

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“It's like it knows me”

■ Tailor / personalise the information displayed or the way a system responds to individual users’ needs / abilities / situations, to engage users to interact in the intended way

■ Adaptive systems can learn about their users’ habits, preferences, etc and respond accordingly; simpler systems which can ‘detect’ some salient criteria and offer behavioural suggestions could also be effective

PAM Personal Activity Monitor

Example: The Pam personal activity monitor, by measuring acceleration rather than simply numbers of steps, allows the feedback it gives and exercise régimes it suggests to be tailored to the user, which allows it to be much more like a 'personal trainer' than a conventional pedometer.

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“Guide me, O thou great persuader”

■ Guided persuasion: a user ‘agrees’ to be routed through a sequence of pre-specified actions or events; commitment to following the process motivates the user to accept the outcome

■ B.J. Fogg uses the example of people voluntarily hiring personal trainers to guide them through fitness programmes (which also involves tailoring). Many software wizards which go beyond merely simplifying a process, into the area of shaping users' choices, would also fit in here; there is the potential to lead users into taking actions they wouldn't do in circumstances outside the tunnel, which must be carefully considered ethically.

Tunnelling in the Foxit Reader installer

Example: The installation wizard for the Foxit PDF Reader tries to get the user to 'choose' extra bundled installation options such as making the default search engine, by presenting them as default parts of the process. By this stage the user cannot exit the tunnel.

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Feedback through form

“Look and feel”

■ Use the form of an object itself as a kind of interface, providing the user with feedback on the state of the system, or cues/suggestions of what to do next. It could be visual changes to the form, or haptic (i.e. sensed through touch)

■ This technique is often overlooked in rushing towards high-tech display solutions; can be as simple as something which intentionally deforms when used in a particular manner to give the user feedback, or changes shape to draw attention to the state it’s in

AWARE puzzle switch

Example: The AWARE Puzzle Switch - designed by Loove Broms and Karin Ehrnberger gives more obvious feedback that a light switch is left on, through obvious 'disorder'.

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Simulation & feedforward

“What would happen if I did this?”

■ Provide a simulation or ‘feedforward’ showing users what consequences particular behaviours will have, compared with others: make cause and effect clearer to users

■ Showing users what will happen if they click ‘here’, or how many miles‘ fuel they have left if they continue driving as they are, tooltips, and even the ‘Preview’ and ‘Undo’ functions of common software, where changes can be easily tried out and then reversed/not applied, can all be considered kinds of feedforward or simulation

Loan repayment simulator

Example: Jakob Nielsen suggests that “a financial website could...encourage users to save more for retirement [by showing] a curve of the user’s growing nest egg and a photo of ‘the hotel you can afford to stay at when travelling to Hawaii after you retire’ for different levels of monthly investment”; interactive savings / loan simulators such as this from Yahoo! are increasingly common, and have the potential to influence user behaviour.

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Operant conditioning

“Rewards for good behaviour”

■ Operant conditioning means reinforcing or ‘training’ particular user behaviour by rewarding it (or, indeed, punishing it). This could be a system where a user chooses to work towards a target behaviour, being rewarded for every bit of progress towards it, or something which periodically (perhaps unpredictably) rewards continued engagement, thus keeping users interacting (e.g. a fruit machine)

■ Sometimes the reward is a function of the system itself: saving energy naturally results in lower electricity bills. The system must make the user aware of this, though, otherwise a reinforcing effect is less likely to occur.

KPT 5 Shapeshifter

Example: E.g. Kai’s Power Tools (pioneering visual effects software) revealed ‘bonus functions’ to reward users who developed their skills with particular tools

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Respondent conditioning

“Force of habit”

■ Respondent conditioning, also known as classical conditioning, can be applied to influence behaviour through helping users subconsciously associate particular actions with particular stimuli or settings, and responding accordingly: basically, developing habits which become reflexes. If you automatically feel for the light switch when you enter or leave a room, or brake when something appears in front of you on the road, this has effectively become a reflex action.

■ Using design, we could try to associate existing routines with new behaviours we would like - e.g. checking the house's energy use when we look out of the window to see what the weather's like outside, by fixing an energy display to the window (a concept by More Assocates / Onzo used this idea). Or we could try to undo these conditioned reflexes where they are damaging in some way to the user, by putting something else in the way.


Example: Smoking is often a conditioned reflex; many devices have been designed to try and undo or thwart this reflex when the user wants to quit, such as the Nicostopper, which stores 10 cigarettes and releases them only at pre-determined intervals.

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Computers as social actors

“I like my Mac because it's so friendly

■ The media equation is the idea that "media equals real life", i.e. that many people treat media (computers, TV, other systems) as if they were real people in terms of social interaction. If users believe that a computer (/system) is ‘on their side’, and helping them achieve their goals, it’s probably more likely they’ll follow advice given by the system: you can design systems to use ‘persuasive agents’, whether explicitly using simulated characters (e.g. in games) or by somehow giving the interface a personality.

■ If the system frustrates the user, advice is more likely to be ignored; equally, beware of the uncanny valley. As pervasive computing and artificial intelligence develop, establishing computers as ‘social actors’ in everyday life offers a lot of potential for more ‘persuasive products’.

Microsoft Office Clippit

Example: Microsoft's Office Assistants, including Clippit / Clippy here, were an attempt to give a helpful personality to Office, but proved unpopular enough with many users that Microsoft phased them out.


Photos/screenshots by Dan Lockton except Volvo 340/360 dashboard courtesy Volvo 300 Mania forum, Eco Button from Eco Button website, Pam personal activity monitor from, AWARE Puzzle Switch from Interactive Institute website, loan simulator screenshot from Yahoo! 7 Finance, and Nicostopper from Nicostopper website.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens

Cognitive Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Cognitive Lens draws on research in behavioural economics and cognitive psychology looking at how people make decisions, and how this is affected by ‘heuristics’ and ‘biases’. If designers understand how users make interaction decisions, that knowledge can be used to influence interaction behaviour.

Equally, where users often make poor decisions, design can help counter this, although this risks the accusation of design becoming a tool of the ‘nanny state’ which ‘knows what’s best’.

Many dozens of cognitive biases and heuristics have been identified by psychologists and behavioural economists, a lot of which could potentially be applied to the design of products and services. The seven detailed below are some of the most commonly used; this selection draws heavily on the work of Robert Cialdini.

Social proof

“What do other users like me do in this situation?”

■ Users will often decide what to do based on what those around them do (the conformity bias), or how popular an option is; make use of this strategically to influence behaviours

■ Social proof works especially well when there is a peer group or users identify with (or aspire to joining) the group against whose behaviour theirs is being compared; an element of competition can be intentionally introduced

Facebook application demonstrating social proof

Examples: Facebook’s ‘n of your friends added x application’ (above), Amazon’s various recommendation features, and statistics announcing the popularity of a particular website or product, such as the Feedburner ‘chicklet’ here all imply that ‘people like you are doing this, therefore you might want to as well’Feedburner's chicklet demonstrates social proof

Amazon's recommendation features demonstrate social proof

Motivating behaviourSocial proof is mainly about motivating user behaviour... Enabling behaviourbut can also enable a user to 'know' what to do, by making it easier to see how others are doing it.


“Well, if you put it that way...”

■ Present choices to a user in a way that ‘frames’ perceptions and so influences behaviour, e.g. framing energy saving as ‘saving you money’ rather than ‘saving the environment’; categorise functions strategically so that users perceive them as being related

■ An obvious principle to many designers (and politicians, and estate agents); there are many possible framing tactics, such as use of language to give positive / negative associations to options (e.g. ‘sports suspension’ sounds better than ‘hard suspension’). Often used to deceive customers

Starbucks' menu demonstrating framing - image by Miss Shari

Examples: Starbucks’ drink sizes—at least on the menu (above)—start with ‘tall’, framing the implied range of sizes much further up the scale, to avoid any negative or mediocre implications that ‘small’ or ‘medium’ might have.

The ‘Knock-off Nigel’ anti-DVD-copying campaign (below) frames crimes against another person, such as theft of money, in the same bracket as downloading a movie, to imply that people who engage in one also engage in the other.

The 'Knock-off Nigel' campaign equates theft of money with downloading a movie

Motivating behaviourFraming is about motivating people to behave in particular ways.

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“Return the favour”

■ Users often feel obliged to return ‘favours’: design systems which encourage users to trade or share information or resources

■ Can involve ‘guilting’ the user, but best if the user genuinely wants to return a favour

Azureus message encouraging users to reciprocate for having downloaded a file by continuing to seed it

Example: This message from the BitTorrent client Azureus (now Vuze) encourages users to 'reciprocate' for having downloaded a file by continuing to seed it

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Commitment & consistency

“Stick to the plan”

■ Get users to commit in some way to an idea or goal; they’re then more likely to behave in accordance with this to appear or feel 'consistent'

■ Can be used less ethically (e.g. the ‘irrational escalation of commitment’ involved in Swoopo)

Choosing to have a water meter installed demosntrates some commitment to saving water. Photo by Phatcontroller

Example: Voluntarily choosing to have a water meter installed can demonstrate some commitment to reducing water, which may persist as a household tries to remain consistent with the commitment.

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Affective engagement

“Getting emotionally involved”

■ Design 'affective' products and systems to evoke emotional response as a way of engaging users and influencing attitudes and behaviours

■ Designers have traditionally been very good at manipulating aesthetics to inspire emotional response, but new technologies allow new opportunities, especially with gaming.

Smiling and frowning faces on electricity bills engage consumers affectively

Example: Using smiling (or frowning) faces on customers' electricity bills can increase the emotional response associated with the bill, and lead to (slight) reductions in electricity use. By comparing customers' use to their neighbours, this strategy also made use of social proof

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“She know's what she's doing”

■ Many users will behave as suggested by an ‘authority figure’ or expert even if that behaviour is outside what they would consider normal; systems can be designed to make use of this effect

■ At least three mechanisms at work here: ‘appeal to authority’ in terms of attitude / behaviour guidance, perceived threat to users who ‘disobey’ authoritative messages, and desire to become more like the ‘pros’ by imitation

Barack Obama on Twitter
Stephen Fry on Twitter

Example: How much of Twitter's success at engaging users to join and participate has been due to well-publicised 'authority' figures embracing it?

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“Not much left, better use it wisely”

■ Whether scarcity is real or not in a situation, if it’s perceived to be, users may value something more, and so alter their behaviour in response: design systems strategically to emphasise the scarcity of a resource

■ Can be down to loss aversion; artificial scarcity can also be introduced (e.g. digital rights management)

Miles left on this tankful of fuel

Example: Digital fuel gauges showing the remaining range on the current tank can help concentrate drivers' minds on the scarcity value of the fuel. See also self-monitoring.


Photos and screenshots by Dan Lockton, except Starbucks menu by Miss Shari on Flickr and water meter by Phatcontroller.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens

Architectural Lens: The Patterns by Dan

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you're here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Architectural Lens draws on techniques used to influence user behaviour in architecture, urban planning and related disciplines such as traffic management and crime prevention through environmental design (see also the Security lens).

While the techniques have been developed in the built environment, many of the ideas can also be applied in interaction and product design, even in software or services; they are effectively about using the structure of systems to influence behaviour.

Positioning & layout

“I wonder why they laid it out like that”

■ Arrange elements to affect how people use them—it can involve simply positioning elements (functions, buttons, etc) in sequence, hiding elements so they are only available for interaction in that sequence, or designing paths to converge or diverge intentionally

■ The layouts of supermarkets, shopping malls and offices can influence the paths taken by users, exposing them to the shelves, shops and colleagues in a strategic order or hierarchy

Bathroom mirror layout - photos by Meagan Call Bathroom mirror layout - photos by Meagan Call

Examples: In this service station bathroom (above), the mirrors have been moved from behind the sinks to an intentionally awkward position near the door, so users don’t spend too long in front of them. See this discussion by Meagan Call.

Chicane layouts (below) force drivers to yield priority to oncoming traffic, reducing speeds.

Chicane road layout

Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour... Enabling behaviourbut can also enable a user by making it easier to use/experience things in the 'right' order.

Material properties

“It's much more comfortable if you use it this way rather than that way”

■ Use materials individually or in combination, chosen for particular properties which influence or affect user behaviour—e.g. comfortable chairs to encourage visitors to sit down, uncomfortable café seating to discourage long stays

■ A change in properties, such as the sudden roughness of rumble strips on the road, can signal to a user that a change in behaviour is appropriate

Rough textured paving dividing pedestrian and cycle paths in Oulu, Finland

Examples: Rough-textured paving (above) can act as a subtle barrier between the cycle and pedestrian tracks: stray over the line on a bike and you’ll feel it.

This bench on the Paris Métro (below) is intentionally too uncomfortable to act as anything other than a very temporary perch: it prevents sleeping or loitering.

Uncomfortable 'bench' on Paris Metro

Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour... Motivating behaviourbut can also motivate a user, e.g. by 'rewarding' certain behaviour with comfort

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Segmentation & spacing

“One at a time, please”

■ Break up a system into multiple elements, spaced strategically to influence how a user can interact with them

■ Often used so users can interact with only one element at a time, or to make sure they share a system with others. Removing spacing, or integrating segmented elements, can also be used intentionally

Segmented seats on the Paris Metro

Example: These individual seats replace a bench on the Paris Métro - meaning that someone cannot lie down or occupy more than one.

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“Slanty design”

■ Use angled elements in a system to influence interaction, e.g. by making it easier or more difficult for some actions to occur than others. Also known as 'slanty design' (Russell Beale).

■ Can also be used to ‘funnel’ users, e.g. staggered pedestrian crossings making sure users face oncoming traffic

New Pig cigarette bin with angled top

Example: Sloping lids on cigarette bins to discourage placing of litter on top

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“You can't use it if it isn't there”

■ Simply remove system elements or cues which allow or encourage particular behaviours you don't want to happen, or which would allow a user to proceed without thinking

■ Can also increase the transparency of a system, making it easier for users to see the consequences of their (and others’) actions

Shared Space at Seven Dials in London. Photo by cheddarcheez

Example: The 'naked roads'/'shared space' approach of removing road markings and signage to influence more careful driving in urban areas, e.g. here at Seven Dials near Covent Garden in London

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Movement & oscillation

“It's brought right in front of you”

■ Dynamic system elements which move to guide users through a process or present things/functions to users in the order they should experience them - e.g. a conveyor belt in a factory or sushi bar

■ Can also be used to discourage users loitering, or blocking others’ paths, e.g. in a popular museum exhibit

Moving walkway at Heathrow

Example: A moving walkway (or an escalator), aside from making it easier for pedestrians to get about, also prevents them blocking the path of others


Photos by Dan Lockton, except service station bathroom by Meagan Call, cigarette bin from a printed version of the New Pig 'pigalog', and Seven Dials photo by Cheedarcheez, used under a Creative Commons by-nc-nd licence.

____________________ The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens