02.20 Design for Behavior Change

Today we reviewed the Instagram posts assignment, Dan introduced the concept of Design for Behavior Change, the students were introduced to the second project of the semester and they performed an in-class exercise that was related to the second project.

Instagram Homework Review

Last week the students had to take photos of something that represented interpersonal.

Design for Behavior Change

Dan introduced the concept of Design for Behavior Change / Design for Intent. The purpose of this type of design is to use design as a method to encourage and discourage certain behaviors. For example, designers may structure or change aspects of the environment or a city in a certain way to influence certain behaviors, such as the signs in Mexico or the environment change to allow easier access to the beach for wheelchair-bound people.

Many times this type of design is developed with a security mindset, for example, the anti-climb paints, which are paints with horrible texture or is sticky. Or hostile architecture, which is used many times as a method to dissuade homeless people from certain areas. It can also be used to make life easier, for example, the Amazon dash button or Zipcar which makes it easier for people not to own a car.

Though a lot of times, these types of design don’t work in the way that the designer intended. This is often a result of a misunderstanding of the intended user. It may be because the designers are missing empathy or a realistic view of the user’s everyday life.


In-class Exercise

We had the students break into groups and select a problem that they wanted to design something that would encourage behavior change. They used the provided cards as a starting point to think about a concept to address their selected problem.

We had the students present their problems and concept ideas. They had a range of problems that wanted to address from the issue of keeping a kitchen clean in a communal environment, access to locked studios, other students locking up studio rooms after they leave, and student leaving excess trash or materials in work areas. 

We discussed the idea of not just making it easier for people but how can we use other methods as a means to influence behavior change. For example with the students not locking up when they leave their studios, instead of just installing a tap-card lock system, how could we change the environment? Many students may not lock the door because their hands are full and it is difficult to get their keys out. So what if you added a shelf next to the door, would that influence them by providing a space to free their hands.


01.23 Is This Not A Pipe?

Today Francis did an overview of the concept of signs introduced by Eugenia last week, reviewed the Instagram posts assignment, introduced product semantics, introduced the first assignment, and Dan introduced behavioral and psychographic profiling.


We reviewed the concept of signs looking at signified and signifier.

We also reviewed the differences between icons, indexes, and symbols as a reminder before we moved into reviewing the Instagram homework. Icons are a direct representation. Indexs require you to make congnitive choices. Symbols are culturally developed and learned over time and have no logical connection.

Instagram Homework Review

Students had to take photos that represented icons, indexes, and symbols.

This image ended up debated on whether it was a symbol or an icon.

So, is this a symbol or an icon?

Product Semantics

Francis introduced the concept of product semantics, which is the study of the symbolic qualities of man-made forms in the context of their use and the application of their knowledge to industrial design. There are 3 elements of product semantics:

  1. Something about the object itself
  2. Something about the larger context of its use
  3. Something about the user who interacts with it and develops a conceptual connection

Below is a diagram visualizing the 3 elements and how they work together

The concept of product semantics lead into introducing cabinets of curiosities, which is an element of the first project, which was introduced today. Cabinets of curiosities were a popular way to display a collection of unique and usual objects. They were traditionally a room and featured items that told stories of fact and fiction with items typically associated with natural histories, such as skulls and minerals, as well as historical and religious objects.

We asked the students what are the elements of a cabinet of curiosities, which will be things for them to think about as they start working on designing their own cabinet of curiosities for the first project.

Behavioral and Psychographic Profiling

Dan introduced the concept of behavioral and psychographic profiling. He showed a clip from a talk by the CEO of Cambridge Analytica about the Ted Cruz campaign and how they used big data and psychographics to develop profiles of American citizens based on their personality traits.

As designers, it is important to understand and consider the concept of behavioral and psychographic profiling because the work we may end up working on most likely will use some form of it. The questions we must think about are if you have or could build a ‘persuasion’ profile, how would (should) you use it, as a designer? And is there a way to do it in a less sinister and more ethical way?

In-class exercise

We had students look at their Facebook profiles and look at the data and information that is collected on them and what Facebook has decided their interests are. We wanted them to think about are the interests and do they align, how would they use that information, and how would they target based on the information.

Instagram Homework This Week

This week we want them to document 1 example of product semantics using the hashtags #productsemantics #cmupersuasion2019.

01.16 Intro to Persuasion


Welcome to Persuasion.

Today’s class was split into three modules. Dan introduced the course and lectured about propaganda, and Eugenia lectured about semiotics.


So, what is this course about?

In this course, students will be exploring persuasion, looking at persuasion from different perspectives, both design and other disciplines to gain a broad understanding of what persuasion is, why it is an important skill for designers, and how it can be applied within a design context.

The class will be split into 3 modules:

  1. How you are persuaded
  2. You as a persuader
  3. Persuasion installation


Dan introduced the concept of propaganda and spoke about the power and historical uses of it.



Eugenia introduced the concept of semiotics, which is the study of signs and their meaning in the context of communication and social interactions. The founders of semiotics are Ferdinand De Saussure, a Swiss Linguist, and Charles Sanders Peirce, an American Professor of Philosophy and Logic. 



In-class Exercise

We asked the class to break into groups and choose a video, such as a music video or commercial, and analyze it looking for the signs that are represented within it. Students looked at a range of videos from Katy Perry’s California Gurls to Dos Equis’s The Most Interesting Man in the World commercial.

Instagram Homework

We also introduced the Instagram assignment, which will be a weekly activity for the duration of the semester. Each week the students will need to take a photograph or video of something that relates to the topics introduced in class and upload it to Instagram and describe their reasoning in the caption. Students also need to use the hashtag of the week and always use #cmupersuasion2019.

This week we want them to document 1-2 signs and categorize them as iconic, indexical or symbolic using the hashtags #index #icon # symbol #cmupersuasion2019.