Prof. Dr. Ir. Geke Ludden

Geke Ludden explores how technology can encourage people to adopt healthier behaviour

Many people cannot take a healthy life for granted, and Professor Geke Ludden, head of the UT research group Interaction Design, is very aware of it. “We tend to point the finger of blame at those with unhealthy lifestyles, but changing human behaviour is not that easy. Environmental factors play an important role. Technology can help people to live more healthily, but at the same time it has to be deployed in such a way that it makes sense to people. So it’s very important that its design considers its relationship to the user and their surroundings.”


Ludden researches how to use technology to help people live healthier lives. The question of how such technology is designed is key. She gives the example of displaying health data. “There are any number of apps that collect data so that we know more about our own behaviour. But simply presenting this data does nothing to change someone’s behaviour. So we have to think harder about the design of various aspects of the technology, for instance a combination of sensors and a smartphone app. For most people, a number or a graph on a screen has little meaning. People need to feel involved in order to be motivated to genuinely and permanently change their behaviour. So it’s actually all about the interaction between people and technology; the relationship between them.”

A successful design begins with human values, Ludden explains. “In our research we identify people’s ‘value networks’. Do some of these values perhaps contradict each other? Someone might like to be healthier, but they also want to go on enjoying life. So we basically try to understand their motives as precisely as possible.” This approach to design, in which Ludden works with focus groups and co-creation, is also called ‘human-centred design’. During her projects the UT’s DesignLab plays a central role. “It’s easy to get people into a creative ‘vibe’ there, and to get them actively involved in our research.”

For instance, in the DesignLab Ludden developed a ‘robot vest’ that corrects the wearer’s posture, and more recently she and her partners designed a vest specially for children with breathing problems. “I’m proudest of this ‘breathing trainer’ – not just because of all the media attention, but also because of the long-term collaboration between different parties, and the applicability of the breathing trainer in actual clinical practice.”


Ludden teaches Design and Behaviour Change and Multisensory Design, on the application of behavioural change theories and the design of products for all human perceptions. She feels it is important that her students learn to work in multidisciplinary teams. “Students need to learn what they, as industrial designers, can contribute to such a team. Our students know a little bit about a great many things, and that makes them good at linking different things together. It’s all about realising their own value within a team, and putting the discipline of industrial design into good practice.”

Geke Ludden

As professor Geke Ludden is the head of the UT’s Interaction Design research group within the faculty of Engineering Technology (ET), and as a fellow she is linked to the UT’s DesignLab. Ludden has worked as a UT lecturer and researcher since 2012. She has also been a visiting research fellow at the University of Technology in Sydney. Before that, Ludden worked as a research consultant with the Novay research institute. Her research work has been published in design and health care journals. She is co-editor of the Design for behaviour change handbook (September 2017, Routledge) and editor of the Journal of Design Research. Ludden has a background in industrial design and gained her PhD at Delft University of Technology in 2008, having gained her Master’s in Industrial Design Engineering at the same university in 2003.

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