Behavior change

As a Social Designer I see it as my task to help people change their behavior for the betterment of themselves and their communities. I strongly believe that as designers we have profound influence on (user) behavior since we shape the designed environment. Many of the challenges of today are created by people going for instant gratification rather than long term benefit. Direct behavior (lifestyle) change influences people’s long-term well-being, in the physical, mental, and social domains.

Mental Shortcut Cards

Mental Shortcut Cards


Taking inspiration and guidance from many of the behavior change experts*, I created a toolkit to help other designers think about how their design can influence behavior. The toolkit consists of an overview on behavior mechanics, strategy and tactic cards and 40 ‘mental-shortcut’ cards, explaining human behavior.

To design for behavior change, one must clarify the system behind the behavior. I find the framework from Tromp (2012) useful to highlight individual concerns versus collective concerns as well as unintended consequences. Once the system is clear one can decide on the behavior change strategy and target group. Strategy can be to discourage bad behavior or encourage good behavior explicitly or implicitly. Besides solution strategy, the product or service to be designed can adopt different tactics. The solution can decide for you, seduce you, coerce you or persuade you.

When the opportunity is clear and the design phase starts, heuristics -or mental shortcuts- can be used to influence user behavior and product experience.

* Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini
* Social design; how products and services can help us act in ways that benefit society by Dr. ir. Tromp
* Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman
* Persuasive Technologyby Fogg
* Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein
* Hooked, How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal