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Getting towards a question – and thence to an answer

September 9, 2010

One of the things that has occured to me about this Engagement lark (and perhaps explains why I’m interested) is that those whose work I’ve read are trying to design systems which encourage the best default behaviour.

When any system is designed, it automatically encourages one way of using it more than others, for better or worse. If you know you’re going to be influencing users, you might as well do something positive with that knowledge.

Dan Lockton is one such chap who’s investigated this – and who wrote a PhD based on it, under the banner of ‘Design with Intent‘ (DwI) and has recently produced a stack of cards called ‘101 patterns for influencing behaviour through design‘.

The cards are a brilliant set of insights into the way everyday things are designed to influence how they are used. For instance, did you know that the buttons on pedestrian crossings in the UK are usually on the right to encourage users to turn towards oncoming traffic? 🙂

Getting to my point: I’m interested in thinking about designing systems into society which encourage certain behaviour. I’ve mentioned before that we don’t want to be paternal, but that were should encourage certain behaviour if it is likely to be for people’s own benefits. One simple example is to encourage higher voting turnouts by… well, various methods (online or e-voting is perhaps the best-known suggestion, for all its controversy). Anything right down to a bit of community spirit to help reduce crime and vandalism.

So, whether or not there are things in this deck that we can use as inspiration, Design with Intent is a useful framework to brainstorm with. Which group do you think has most relevance (I reckon the Cognitive Lens)?