Design with Intent: the book

About the book

Design is increasingly concerned with people’s behaviour. We’re seeing products, services, interfaces and environments—often connecting physical and digital—redesigned with the aim of influencing us to change our everyday practices, or to affect our impact on society or the environment. But all of this makes assumptions about human nature and the ways in which people make decisions—and many of these assumptions are quite simplistic.

This book offers a more nuanced approach to behavioural design, based around designing and researching with people rather than ‘for’ them, working with people’s understanding of the world, and with the complexities of everyday human experience. Drawing on widely multidisciplinary academic research and practical examples, Design with Intent offers interaction designers, user researchers and other professionals a new set of tools for working with human behaviour as part of the design process.

  • Discover multiple perspectives on human behaviour from different disciplines, with practical examples.
  • Understand and apply methods of doing research with people, in context, as an integral part of the design process.
  • Learn a more nuanced and reflective approach to ‘behavioural design’, questioning how problems are framed and the societal impacts of design.
  • Explore a library of design patterns from both physical and digital contexts, and understand when different patterns might be applicable.
  • See how designing with people in behaviour change can be applied to social and environmental problems, as well as commercially.

Design is increasingly about people’s behaviour, but this is often considered simplistically. Design with Intent gives practitioners a more nuanced approach to design and behaviour, working with people, people’s understanding, and the complexities of everyday human experience.


All design affects people’s behaviour, across physical and digital products, services, and environments. Indeed, everything designed—in Herbert Simon’s very broad sense of “changing existing situations into preferred ones”—must embody particular models of human decision-making and motivations. Design for behaviour change, or behavioural design—where design is used strategically to influence particular actions, for intended commercial, social or environmental benefit—has grown significantly in the last few years. From the technology side, phenomena such as the quantified self and gamification are meeting the growing popularity of behavioural economics in government and consultancy. To tackle this in an informed—rather than simplistic—way calls for designers and researchers to have understanding not only of areas of social science, psychology, ethnography and other disciplines, but also the confidence to carry out research with people as part of the process. Design with Intent aims to provide this.

Goals of the book are:

  • introducing a multidisciplinary approach to ‘behavioural design’ in terms of insights and theoretical backgrounds, going beyond what readers would normally have been exposed to in this space
  • exploring a more nuanced and less mechanistic approach, and equipping readers to do the same, enabling a more reflective and critical process for framing problems
  • providing readers with qualitative and quantitative research methods for doing research with people as part of a behavioural design process
  • giving readers a set of design patterns, with discussion of their applicability and issues around them, which will be a useful reference

The style of the book will be appropriate for more ‘thoughtful’ designers, researchers and managers. Part 1 will take readers through theoretical backgrounds, case studies and research methods in a reflective, discursive way, while Part 2 will present design patterns and examples more briefly, but still reflectively. Overall, the aim is to shift mindsets somewhat, away from a mechanistic model of “here’s how to do X” to “let’s understand more of the issues around X as part of trying to do it”.

About the author

Dr Dan Lockton is a research tutor at the Royal College of Art, London, and an independent consultant on design, understanding and behaviour. He is the creator of the Design with Intent toolkit card deck, and has worked on areas of research ranging from energy use feedback to community groups’ use of technology.