The success of (technological) interventions aimed at changing behaviour depends on the communication efforts that surround such interventions. For instance, the effect of surveillance technology on behaviour has been shown to vary depending on how surveillance is framed on information boards or warning signs. Likewise, recent research shows that encouraging desirable behaviours (e.g., taking a shower before entering a swimming pool, the correct disposal of litter, or the reduction of bicycle theft) can be enhanced by subtle design cues (such as a pair of watchful eyes depicted on warning signs).
What such studies show is not only that the communication effort that accompanies interventions is necessary for successful implementation in society, but also that communication works best when it not only includes textual elements, but also design cues. The success of design can be attributed to the fact that it often operates outside conscious awareness, which has the advantage of reducing consumer reactance. Furthermore, a very recent development shows that incorporating multi-sensory elements such as sound, scent or movement may render interventions even more persuasive (such as traffic lights equipped with sound, colour, and movement which give people a sense of control by informing them about how long they need to wait).
In sum, design plays a significant role when it comes to changing behaviour in many ways. Thus, instead of using exclusively linguistic means of communication, communication professionals may also use design to influence people’s behaviour. In this module, students will develop and test a design intervention to solve a problem encountered in public space. You can devise a means to, for instance, reduce littering on campus, encourage students in a university restaurant to choose healthier food, or induce pro-social behaviours among people while queuing.