The morality of the designer

Last thursday we organized the 4th Behavior Design meetup. A gathering in Amsterdam where we connect designers, scientists and entrepreneurs to share ideas and lessons about behavior design.

Who’s in control?
We touched the discussion about the implications of designing behavior without people noticing it several times. Overal people are confused about this topic.

Nir Eyal – one of the speakers – said behavior design will have a wear out effect. The same effect you notice when you look at old commercials. “Did people really believe this?”.

Behavior Design Amsterdam 4 BDAMS

Attention as a business goal
In the digital landscape the design of a digital service that forces itself into your lifestyle can be an important business goal. Digital services are often focussed on attention and engagement.

Behavior design helps these services to succeed their goals. The addictive design elements in Facebook are an important part of it’s success (“you’re tagged in a photo, want to know what’s on the picture, come and visit”).

Is this right or wrong? It’s an interesting question because you usually don’t notice behavior design. The idea is to influence your behavior without you noticing. The result is that it changes something real. It changes the choices you make or it changes how you spend your time.

Making choices
A designer has always given meaning to a product or service by it’s design. Even if it’s not intentionally. Design is about making choices and choices are as much about what you do as what you don’t.

In the end behavior design is just like any other design tool. You can use it for good or bad. Designers can have a role in pointing out where it’s being used and what for. Since if you design this stuff, you’re likely better in noticing it.

The other thing that came up in the discussion is that effect or addiction in digital products is measurable. Facebook knows what group of people is unhealthy addicted to their service. You can design behavior for this group as well.

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