Sustainability and Behavior Change

by Marko Goller

It all started with one single question: How can product design change people‘s behaviour for the better?

This is our bachelor degree project, by Marko Goller and Tobias Martsch, done at the University of Design in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany.

If you research on the topic of behaviour change you‘ll find a lot of studies, papers and articles that tell you how to change people‘s behaviour from a neuroscientific point of view. But what we wanted to do was to translate all these scientific insights and analysis into different products that make people change their behaviour on their own. Because we think that this is the most successful way to create a really sustainable change of behaviour.

After an extended research and analysis phase we decided to design three different products on three different topics. Every topic deals with a different kind of problem that refers to our everyday life. The first one is about our waste of water. The second one is about social behaviour and the way we treat other people. And the third one deals with our waste of energy.

All three products are based on two simple principles. The first one is: Give the user something that he knows. For example a well known action or a well known image or behaviour pattern, but make sure that it‘s something universal and simple that everyone is able to understand. Because the first step is that the user has to understand the product intuitively without thinking about it.

The second principle is: Give the user something unexpected. This could be a lot of different things, for example a color, a tone or an unexpected action and this is what creates a unique and a very sustainable user experience. So the more the user is “surprised” by the product the longer he will remember the experience.

Below you find our three products each one starting with a question that was the initial point of designing and developing the product.

1. Wasserspiegel

Wasserspiegel by Marko and Tobias

How can you make people save water while washing their hands? One of the biggest worldwide problems is the waste of clean water and it is permanently increasing. So how should a product be designed to make its users save water without feeling limited or restricted?

We designed a water basin that shows the water consumption quite plainly. The used water rises virtually on an OLED-display in front of the mirror. If the user uses too much water he will literally drown and can hardly see himself in the mirror.

2. Gib‘s mir

Gibs mir by Marko and Tobias

How can you prevent people having to search for bottles in the trash? A few years ago we got a new law in Germany which dictates a deposit on plastic bottles which is 25 cents per bottle. Since then you find a lot of people in need who are searching for these bottles in the trash or the dustbins to earn a little extra money.

„Gib‘s mir“ is a bottle tree designed for public spaces. Passersby can hang their bottles on the tree instead of just throwing them away into the dustbins and so people in need can easily pick up the bottles without having to search in the trash and thus they escape the contemptuous looks of the other people around.

3. Konkret

Konkret by Marko and Tobias

How can you make people save energy in their household? Everyone is familiar with the fact that we are using way more energy than we really need. But the problem is that we can‘t see how much energy we use because energy is nothing visible or noticeable, it‘s just there.

So what we tried to do with „Konkret“ was to translate the use of energy into a physical action. And so we designed a pendant lamp that can be winded up just as required. The higher you pull the lamp the longer it will stay illuminated. And after pulling it up the lamp will slowly go down again until it has reached its final position and turns off. The principle is: If you wanna have more light, you have to put in more physical energy by winding the lamp up.

One more thing was really important to us during the whole design process; we don‘t want our products to tell people what they are doing wrong or how they have to act. We only want to make them think about their behaviour but in the end it‘s up to each individual to change something or not.

Please leave your comments and tell us what you think about the project or tell us what you would have done differently.

Marko Goller