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Waste Not: Designing for Smarter Consumption

Last weekend, in partnership with the Seattle Design Festival, IxDA Seattle and Puget Sound SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction), our design researcher, strategist and behavioral economics expert, Nikki Pfarr, along with our research director Masuma Henry and researcher and strategist Gabriel Biller, led a workshop focused on how the principles of behavioral economics and cognitive psychology can help us nudge people toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly habits.

Called “Waste not! Designing to encourage smarter consumption,” the interactive seminar and workshop attracted more than 40 attendees — from experienced design practitioners to students and design firm owners. Participants worked through our Behavior Change Strategy Cards, brainstorming ways to change behaviors to improve the environment, health, and sustainability.

The participants were broken into teams, and each focused on developing products, services, and messaging concepts to encourage a specific positive behavior change – like reducing water usage, increasing the use of public transportation, and decreasing packaging waste. The outcome of the session was coming up with practical, applicable ideas such as:

  • Encouraging people to bike to work by reducing uncertainty and providing information about the number of bike racks available on upcoming buses
  • Revealing the true cost of printing at the point where consumers are buying a printer to encourage buying less wasteful printers
  • Encouraging healthy eating on airplanes by giving out healthy options by default, during a first round of food and beverage service, and making people wait for the second round of service if they want something unhealthy

At Artefact, we believe that understanding of behavioral economics and cognitive psychology are key to designing products for a preferable future. As we continue to explore these topics, we are also seeing a growing interest in developing a practical understanding of how they can be applied. Take a look at the photos from last week’s workshop.