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Title: Design, mental models and behaviour change
Authors: Lockton, D
Human Centred Design Institute (HCDI) Research Seminar Series
Keywords: Target behaviour;Design patterns;Behaviour change;Energy use;Mental models
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Brunel University
Abstract: Behaviour change, in one form or another, has become a hot topic, from the 'gamification of everything' to the Cabinet Office's 'Nudge Unit'. Design is central to this subject, whether or not politicians realise it: all design influences people's behaviour, whether we do it deliberately or not. We can't avoid it - so we might as well do it intelligently, particularly where we can help align the needs of users and benefits for society. In this seminar, Dan will talk about some of the insights arising from the Empower project, a collaboration between Brunel Design, More Associates and the University of Warwick. They have been trying to understand how people's behaviour affects patterns of energy use in workplaces, via a range of ethnographic studies and participatory design workshops, in order to develop products that make it easier for both individuals and businesses to change their behaviour and collectively reduce their energy use. Most of what they have found out is about mental models - how people understand the systems around them, and the parts they play in them, and how people within the same place may have different understandings of how things work. The diversity of mental models suggests a range of different design approaches for influencing behaviour, based on how we, as designers, want to treat users: do we want to work with the understanding they have, or do we want to change it?
Description: This seminar was delivered on 15th June 2011 by Daniel Lockton a PhD reseracher in the Cleaner Electronics Research Group which is part of the School of Engineering and Design at Brunel University. Dan’s research centres on investigating techniques for using design to influence users’ interactions with products and systems, so that they are used in a more environmentally friendly manner (reducing energy use, reducing waste generation, and so on). The aims include: developing a method for selecting techniques, useful to environmentally sensitive product designers, interaction designers and engineers working on future products and systems; and testing practical implementations of some of these techniques, in consumer electronic products, to determine their effectiveness at achieving the target behaviour. Funded by an Ormsby Trust studentship, this work builds on Dan’s ongoing personal research into ‘Design with Intent’ ( – how users’ behaviour is influenced by the design of products, systems and environments, and a general interest in ‘design for independence’: reducing society’s resource dependence, reducing vulnerable users’ dependence on others, and reducing users’ dependence on ‘experts’ to understand their technology. Dan studied Industrial Design Engineering at Brunel University, Runnymede, from 2000-4, and then a Cambridge-MIT Institute Master’s in Technology Policy at the University of Cambridge from 2004-5, before returning to Brunel in 2007. As a freelance designer / engineer / researcher, clients have included Sinclair Research (lightweight transport R & D, including some work on the ultra-light ‘A-Bike’ and in the mobility field), London design consultancy Tangerine (product and branding research) and gadget retailer Mayhem (new product prototyping) as well as a number of individual entrepreneurs. He has also written on automotive history and other design and innovation issues, and has recently become a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The presentation was hosted at Brunel University as part of the Human Centred Design Institute (HCDI) Research Seminar Series. HCDI is a University Research Centre (URC) that brings together expertise in Human-centred Design which combines methodologies and technologies from design, engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence and philosophy. Human-centred Design leads to machines, systems and products which are physically, cognitively and emotionally intuitive to their users. The Human Centre Design seminar series are events designed to encourage communication and teamwork with colleagues across the university and experts leaders in human-centred related topics.
Appears in Collections:Design
Public Lectures and Seminars
Dept of Design Research Papers

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