Swimming in design

My head is spinning as a result of the last week, which was spent in Chicago at the 2010 Design and Emotion Conference. It was my first true design conference (SXSW Interactive in 2008 kind of counts, but…), and my first academic conference. I didn’t present a paper, but I did volunteer and sat in on something like 30 talks about various design papers and 3 of the 4 keynote speeches (I only missed the 4th because I had a headache, but it’ll be online shortly anyway), and had some great conversations and met some great people. It was a great experience, and has given me a lot to think about. (Maybe I’ll write a write-up in a few days.)

We got back late last night, and today I’ve jumped right back in with catching up on my large pile of schoolwork and research. Besides my thesis, I’m in two other classes, with their own research projects:

Social Impact By Design (mentioned by Jenny on printmag.com’s Imprint blog!) – I’m exploring the idea of getting people to take more responsibility for their surroundings. This could relate possibly to something like littering or vandalism, or being more considerate of people around them, or just shaking the idea that “it’s not my problem; someone else owns it/someone else will deal with it”.

Information+Interaction+Perception – I’ll be developing some designed product/artifact/campaign that educates and informs about the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism (in a friendly and totally unobtrusive way, to counteract the headstrong and pushy image a number of vegetarians have built).

For the latter, I’m working on reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now, and searching for relatively unbiased and reputable sources of information.

For the former, I’ve started by reading up on designing for persuasion. But that brings up some questions: does persuasion imply some sort of tangible and measurable reaction? With something like this, which is more of an implicit and personal cultural shift in how a person responds to a situation, does that mean that this project would still fall under the umbrella of persuasive design? I’m not persuading people to take a specific action; I’m “persuading” (or suggesting?) that they think differently, and possibly even internalize a message or concept that changes their view, which will, in turn, change their actions. Or…is that actually what persuasive design is all about?

Obviously I’m only getting started on my research for this. But the psychological implications and strategies implicit in design are really fascinating to me, and I’m looking forward to learning much more about this.

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