Designing for behavioral change

Behavioral Change: The Goal of design

The focus on brand and control of the user experience is an attempt to avoid the above commoditization and irrelevance of artifact, and it references a dated model of dominance – one where a company produces something for a person to consume. This is the McDonalds approach to production, where an authoritative voice prescribes something and then gains efficiencies by producing it exactly as prescribed, in mass. The supposed new model is to design something for a person to experience, yet the allusion to experience is only an empty gesture. An experience cannot be built for someone. Fundamentally, one has an experience, and that is experience is always unique.

Interaction design is the design of behavior, positioned as dialogue between a person and an artifact. A person commonly doesn’t talk to an object; they use it, touch it, manipulate it, and control it. Usage, touching, manipulation and control are all dialogical acts, unspoken but conversational. Conversation is only a metaphor for interaction, but it’s a useful one. Many of the same ways we “read” an actual, spoken conversation have parallels in describing and discussing interactions between people and things. Consider:

Both conversations and interactions have flow, and often have a beginning, middle, and end;

Both conversations and interactions act as intertwining of multiple viewpoints. In a conversation, the viewpoints come from people; in an interaction, viewpoints are embedded in an artifact by a designer;

Both conversations and interactions act as both methods of communication and methods of comprehension; participants both contribute to, and take from, the activity;

Ultimately, both conversations and interactions serve to affect behavioral change in participants.

This is powerful, as it describes an implicit way of extending a designers reach – and personal point of view, or message – into the masses. It is this mass distribution of dialogue that describes culture; we build culture through our objects, services and systems, as we define behavior through interactions. This is of equal prominence to the claim of “designing experiences,” yet leaves open the potential – the need – for the people (pardon, the consumers) to actually participate and contribute in a meaningful way. The things we do in the design studio have grand significance in the world. Our design decisions – even small, detailed, nuanced design decisions – resonate for years, and usually in a phenomenally large scale. Yet because these design decisions have an impact that is diffused and quiet, our impact is hard to notice and pin down. Culture is something that’s not immediately describable; the question “where does culture come from?” is almost as large a question as “where does life come from,” and is equally as evasive.

This requires a conscious tradeoff and reprioritization. Instead of control, we must focus on frameworks. Instead of seeking to own and prescribe a singular experience, we must strive to adapt to the peculiarities and nuances of human behavior. And instead of complicity absorbing the corporate drive towards power and brand positioning, we must acknowledge the huge responsibility implicit in our work and constantly vocalize how our work supports humanity and the cultural landscape that surrounds us. We’ve built that cultural landscape, and we owe it to ourselves and to our work to tend to our creation as it morphs, changes and adapts. As you cringe from someone talking into a Bluetooth headset on the subway, or smile as a child and mother look at photos on their phone, realize that this technological culture is ours in the making. Both the bad and good are our ongoing fault and responsibility.

Original article via design mind

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