Introduction to the Design with Intent toolkit

Design with Intent cards

Design with Intent: 101 patterns for influencing behaviour through design by Dan Lockton with David Harrison & Neville A. Stanton. ISBN 978-0-9565421-0-6 (print) & 978-0-9565421-1-3 (PDF)

The Design with Intent toolkit is a collection of design patterns, or ‘gambits’, for influencing user behaviour through design.

Download the toolkit cards, worksheets and articles (free)

It’s applicable across product, service, interaction and architectural design, aimed particularly at socially and environmentally beneficial behaviour change. The patterns are drawn from a range of disciplines, and are phrased as questions or provocations to enable the toolkit’s use as both a brainstorming tool and a guide for exploring the field of design for behaviour change. More about how to use the toolkit >

Originally released in 2010, the toolkit’s in use by industry, public sector and educational organisations worldwide, and Dan Lockton also offers workshops and consultancy using it, as well as exploring other aspects of design for behaviour change, and the interface between people and technology. Luis Oliveira has produced a Brazilian Portuguese translation.

Explore the eight ‘lenses’ of the toolkit

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Design with Intent toolkit cards Design with Intent toolkit cards Design with Intent toolkit cards Design with Intent toolkit cards








About the toolkit

All design influences our behaviour, but as designers we don’t always consciously consider the power this gives us to help people (and, sometimes, to manipulate them). There’s a huge opportunity for design for behaviour change to address social and environmental issues where people’s behaviour is important, but at the time I started working on this project back in 2007, there was little in the way of a guide for designers and other stakeholders, bringing together knowledge and examples from different disciplines, and drawing parallels which could allow concepts to be usefully transposed. The Design with Intent toolkit cards aimed to make a start, however small, on this task.

I use the term Design with Intent to mean design that’s intended to influence or result in certain user behaviour — it’s an attempt to describe lots of types of systems (products, services, interfaces, environments) that have been strategically designed with the intent to influence how people use them. This reflective approach can be valuable for designers: being aware that we’re designing not just products, not just experiences, but actually designing behaviour at one level or another. Whether we mean to do it or not, it’s going to happen, so we might as well get good at it — and understand when it’s being done to us.

Design with Intent workshopThe toolkit evolved from being an attempt at a very structured, TRIZ-like method for prescribing particular design features to address specific target behaviours, to something which is effectively a very loose idea generation tool, provoking design ideas by asking questions and giving examples of particular principles in action. This evolution is a direct result of iterative improvement through running workshops with designers, and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what’s usable and what isn’t.

This is DwI v.1.0, and represented the culmination of 3 years’ work for my PhD. The first version to be publicly released was v.0.9, in poster (PDF) / website form, and this was tested and developed in a number of variants, including card decks, in workshop sessions with designers and design students. The earlier v.0.8 was used for a small number of pilot studies (PDF) with design students. The earliest, very incomplete versions were partly revealed on the blog. (There’s a full list of publications, arising from the DwI research, with links, here — journal and conference papers etc.)

The core of my research since has focused on influencing more sustainable user behaviour, to reduce the environmental impact of technology use, but much of this is essentially an interaction design problem, and the principles and patterns involved apply in general to human interaction with systems.

The idea of gambits and patterns

Is this a design pattern library? Sort of. The idea of design patterns, drawn from Christopher Alexander’s work in architecture and planning, has been adopted throughout the worlds of design and computer science, particularly in programming and human-computer interaction. It is this latter context — particularly the work of Jenifer Tidwell and Christian Crumlish & Erin Malone — which influenced the form and development of the toolkit, with a large dose of Oblique Strategies, TRIZ and IDEO’s Method Cards.

However, the DwI cards, at least in their current form, are more like provocations — ‘Can you do this with your design?’ — than the established ‘Use this when…’-style of the design pattern structure. It’s not that I don’t want to be able to give more definitive suggestions of when particular techniques or principles might be applicable, just that (at present) we don’t have enough information about what works and what doesn’t in different situations to be able to be that specific. One day, it will be easier to do. I have tried to address this to some extent on the page discussing how to use the cards.

Bryan Lawson has used the term ‘gambit’ (PDF) to describe the ‘repertoire of tricks’ that experienced designers (and architects) are able to bring to bear on a problem, drawing from chess terminology. The key is pattern recognition of the problem and quick matching to possible moves to address it, and is is hoped that the DwI cards match this approach: bringing some of that experience on influencing user behaviour, from multiple design-related disciplines, together in the form of possibly applicable gambits, presented in a form which is useful during the early stages of the design process. So, for the moment, I’m using both ‘gambit’ and ‘pattern’ to describe each DwI card.

The eight lenses

The eight lenses are a way of grouping the 101 cards according to different kinds of disciplinary ‘worldview’ or fields of research. The original idea was that an architect might approach influencing behaviour by instinctively proposing ideas from the Architectural lens, an ergonomist by using ideas from Errorproofing, and so on. But in fact this is a very loose taxonomy and a number of the cards would fit happily in other lenses. It is more of a convenience grouping than anything rigorous, so please don’t take it too seriously. It’s the gambits or patterns themselves which are more important.