When Design Changes Behavior

We can all spot the affects of negative behaviors. They surround us. Smoking, littering, and wasting energy only scratch the surface and many of these behaviors were formed and are reinforced by the places where we spend our time. In fact, we spend nearly half of our time in the same locations every day, where it becomes easy to form complex routines and habits. Many of these actions are harmless, but some of them have negative side effects.

We can can design more innovative solutions to change these unwanted behaviors by identifying how envirnoments reinforce them. These "small disruptions" can help us snap out of our learned behavior and regain control over actions.

The projects and experiments on this site show how design can produce positive behavioral changes by disrupting environments and the habits people form.

Revolving to Save

My search started with Theophilus Van Kannel, an inventor from Philadelphia who was granted the first American patent for his revolving door in 1888. He called it a "Storm-Door Structure," and it has many obvious advantages over swinging doors: it prevents wind, snow, rain, dust, or noise from entering the building. Swinging doors exchange eight times more air.Revolving doors also allow people to enter and exit buildings at the same time without the "possibility of collision,"a major advancement at the time. In fact, a standard "4-wing" door can move 4,800 people into and out of a building every hour.

(read more)

Flies in Urinals

"Many designers and educators are dubious of the recent surge of design altruism, noting that they rarely see evidence of social impact projects that lead to real behavior change. While it is well documented that public awareness campaigns generally work for actions that people perform infrequently, like donating to a disaster, it is much harder to change habitual actions in a meaningful way. Since daily habits are profoundly shaped by our environment, perhaps designers must disrupt the environment itself to change behaviors?"

(read more)