Designing with people in sustainability and behaviour change research

Workshop organisers
Dan Lockton, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art, UK 
Flora Bowden, SustainRCA, Royal College of Art, UK 
Sara Renström, Design & Human Factors, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden 
Anneli Selvefors, Design & Human Factors, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden 
Pernilla Hagbert, Homes for Tomorrow, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden 
Carolin Baedeker, Sustainable Production & Consumption, Wuppertal Institute, Germany 
Najine Ameli, Sustainable Production & Consumption, Wuppertal Institute, Germany

We hope we can learn from each other-we want participants to share methods, ideas, stories 'from the field' and needs and possibilities arising from ongoing and future projects, through group exercises, presentations and re-enactments; over the day, we'll collect these insights in a structured format, matching needs, methods and case studies with potentially applicable behavioural design techniques. This will be then published online as a guide for researchers, but also to inform others working on sustainability and behaviour change-including in a policy context-of design research's value in this area.While technology is important, people (whether or not we call them 'users') are key to the environmental and social challenges of design in everyday life. Understanding people-and the contexts and social practices of living and working-is crucial. Without these insights, work on sustainability risks being based on assumptions about human behaviour and decision-making which may not capitalise on the opportunities design offers.In the workshop, we'll be exploring methods for involving and including people better in design research for sustainability and behaviour change-designing with people. These include ethnographic methods, participatory design and co-creation, prototyping, probes and provocations, and integrating qualitative and quantitative data. We'll discuss aspects distinguishing sustainability and energy research from general user research-how can specialist knowledge best be used?The workshop is facilitated by researchers from Sweden, Germany and the UK, working on people-centred design, behaviour and sustainability. 


We would like participants to put together brief case studies (approx 2-4 pages) of methods, ideas and stories 'from the field' about research relating to behaviour, people's interaction with products, services or environments, with either a sustainability perspective or relating to other areas of social benefit. These do not have to be formal papers, but they can be if you wish. Key things to include are:

  • how you framed the problem you were investigating, or what you were trying to find out

  • how/why you chose the research methods you did

  • how they worked in practice - how did the results inform your design process?

  • how you would improve the methods

Ideally, we would like you to bring to the workshop (or at least have images of) some of the actual artefacts / tools involved. For example, if you used a form of design probe, be prepared to talk through the details of it. 

Please also include, again briefly, some needs and possibilities you see arising from ongoing and future projects: what kinds of questions are you going to need to answer?

The point of the workshop is collectively to share and learn from each other's methods and experience, so our main criteria for selecting participants will be based on a) making sure we have a diverse set of people, methods and contexts represented, and b) making sure we keep the workshop to a reasonable number of participants to allow easier discussion and group work over the day. 

Workshop website

Dan Lockton: