Design with Intent Toolkit

By Dan Lockton with David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton

The Design with Intent Toolkit has been in the works for a while and is now available online as a download here. The toolkit is robust, consisting of over 101 cards that provide “gambits,” or patterns, which provide many ways that designs can influence people’s behavior. The cards are organized into 8 lenses, or “disciplinary worldviews.”

For my thesis, the “Interaction Lens” and the “Cognitive Lens” in particular could be helpful. Within Interaction, a few ideas include giving feedback, either during behavior or later, as summaries of behavior, to show people the effects of their actions.

Summary Feedback image

Interaction Lens: Summary Feedback (copyright: Dan Lockton)

The Cognitive Lens section builds on principles of psychology, including those by Cialdini and Thaler and Sunstein (who wrote Nudge). I find the ideas of commitment, emotional engagement, and social proof especially interesting.

Social Proof image

Cognitive Lens: Social Proof (copyright: Dan Lockton)

Emotional engagement image

Cognitive Lens: Emotional Engagement (copyright: Dan Lockton)

The “Ludic Lens” is another helpful set; many of these cards showcase principles of games or play. I don’t at this time expect to delve into this type of design but it is an option I’ve considered for the future.

One aspect of the cards that surprised me on closer examination is the realization that many provide ideas which seem quite unethical in nature. The creators themselves even write in the card deck that, for example, the “Machiavellian Lens” approaches, which follow the principle that the ‘end justifies the means,’ “will often be considered unethical, but nevertheless are commonly used to control and influence consumers.” The “Security Lens” and even some of the Cognitive Lens ideas also contain many questionable practices. Although Lockton says the cards are meant as a “idea generation tool, provoking design ideas by asking questions and giving examples of particular principles in action” ( I find it troubling that ideas such as “degrading performance,” “slow response,” and even “threat of injury” are included in this set of cards. I am uncertain as to what the purpose of these particular cards is; merely to provoke? Or are designers meant to accept and continue using these practices? (Update: see Dan’s answer to my questions in a comment below)

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2 Responses to Design with Intent Toolkit

  1. Dan Lockton says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for the review! It sounds like you’re doing a really interesting project, and I’m glad some of the cards are useful.

    The main reason for including the less ethical techniques alongside the others was because they are>/i> often used in practice to influence people’s behaviour, even though (as designers) we might be uncomfortable with them. The cards are meant to be a catalogue of existing techniques, as well as a way of generating new ideas.

    In particular, my hope was that having some less comfortable ideas present would encourage people to reflect on and think about them (and even identify where they might have experienced the techniques being used on them) and so (hopefully) reject using them in the projects they’re working on. Robert Biddle has used the term ‘persuasion literacy’ to describe helping people understand how they are influenced by design, persuasive technology and (e.g.) advertising, and certainly there’s an element of this present. You might like to compare projects like Harry Brignull’s Dark Patterns.

    Good luck with the project!

    • Thanks for your comment, Dan. I have actually been finding both your Toolkit and Design with Intent website insightful and helpful references—I realize the critical tone of my post may not have made that quite clear! I appreciate your clarification of how the less ethical techniques in the cards could potentially be used; that definitely helps me to understand the intent behind them.

      The ethics of persuasion is an issue that I continue to question. It’s certainly helpful to be aware of how we’re influenced by persuasive design and advertising—and it’s good (at times) to reflect on uncomfortable ideas. As I’m trying to figure out where my master’s thesis fits into the intersections of information, persuasion, and activism, I’m beginning to think that wrestling with uncomfortable ideas will comprise the bulk of the project.

      Thanks for the links as well—I’ve glanced at Harry Brignull’s work but I’ll have to give both him and Robert Biddle a closer look.


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