Second year Programme

Module 7 Communication by Design

Communication by Design (20170003)

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.  

This module includes four components:

  1. 2.3 Project: Design for Behavioural Change
  2. 2.3 Theory: Consumer Behaviour & Design Research
  3. 2.3 Research Methodology: Quantitative Data Analyses 2
  4. 2.3 Academic and Professional Skills: Academic Writing and Presenting 2 

2.3 P: Design for Behavioural Change
Whether it is on our own campus or in a city centre, organizations always aim to promote certain desirable behaviours while reducing or preventing others. For instance, in our sports centre, it is important that users dress appropriately, a restaurant may wish to encourage diners to choose healthier foods, and a library may require people to keep their voices down. Sometimes specific measures are taken to enforce such behaviours (such as placing information boards or warning signs), while at other times it is simply taken for granted that people will behave ‘appropriately’. In this module, you will work in teams on a specific project (either related to behaviour change on our own campus or in a public space elsewhere) for which you will propose, develop and test a design intervention. 

2.3 T: Consumer Behavioural & Design Research
In this module component, students become acquainted with literature on design research and consumer behaviour. Students will come to understand that design may have a far-reaching impact over and beyond making our society prettier or more interesting. At the same time, literature on consumer behaviour reveals that consumer decision making and the ensuing behaviours may also come about in many different ways, sometimes involving conscious deliberation, at other times having a more subliminal effect. By pairing the fields of design research and consumer behaviour, students will be empowered to successfully use design as a means of effecting behavioural change in their project. 

2.3 R: Quantitative Data Analyses 2
Following up on ‘Quantitative Data Analyses 1’ (module 4), students will become acquainted with the different types of statistical tests for multi-group comparisons (including ANOVA and regression analyses). These are quantitative experimental research tools which allow comparison between two or more groups. For instance, students may compare behaviours in a group of participants who are exposed to their design intervention with behaviours in a control group (in which no design intervention was present). Furthermore, students will learn how to control for variables not part of the research set-up. For instance, how to control for weather conditions when conducting research outside? The aim in this module is to measure behaviours using technological devices such as eye trackers (e.g., do people actually look at the intervention?), GPS trackers (where do people go?), and movement sensors (how fast or erratically do people walk by?). Students will come to understand that depending on the type of measurement, different statistical tests will be feasible. 

7D: Academic Writing and Presenting 2
This module component consists of two parts. First, students will write an APA-style research article (including a literature review) in which they report on their findings. Second, students will present the results of their research project during a research symposium for an academic audience.