What does Designing for Human Behaviour mean? Part 4


Deposit Photos | What does Designing for Human Behaviour mean? Part 4 | Design Partnership Australia
Deposit Photos | What does Designing for Human Behaviour mean? Part 4 | Design Partnership Australia

What does Designing for Human Behaviour mean?

Let's start with the definition of Human Behaviour. “Human behaviour is a function of the actions and attitudes of people within an environment.” What is an action? An action “is a sensory and cognitive process that is measurable and observable”. What is an attitude? “An attitude is an emotive and intuitive response that requires relationship and story” (Piaget’s theory of cognitive development). What is the environment? The circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded.

By looking directly at the actions and attitudes of people a correlation can be drawn and patterns can be observed and measured within specific environments. Most of these patterns are informed by culture, ergonomics, economics and the herd effect of others within the same environment. Designing for Human Behaviour, therefore, means Designing for the patterns to which users are accustomed within specific environments.

“It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives.” Norman

Every time you expose a user to a new innovative groundbreaking or unorthodox pattern whether it be a new type of restaurant or serving food, a new type of office environment or working, a new way of driving or using a new type of computer interface, you stand a chance to lose them, not because people don’t have the capacity to understand them, but because they trust the familiar more than they trust the unknown. In a world of information overload, these cognitive biases are our shortcuts to help us get thru the day and breaking that pattern comes with a very high risk of rejection.

There are many examples. Think about 3D TV. After 3D movies were the rage in the 2000s culminating in the success of Avatar in 2009, 3D TV was predicted to take over and all manufacturers clamoured to get this feature into their sets. It was a complete flop. Smart internet refrigerators that could order food online and self-balancing scooters like Sedgeway were hardly the game-changer they set out to be.

Of late there is a revisit of the idea of “Automat” restaurants ie the idea post-COVID-19 of reducing exposure of people to people and having multiple food products in essence either served by conveyers and robots or available in vending slots. Few people will know that the 1st Automat restaurant opened its doors in Philadelphia in 1888. Horn and Hardart operated out of 150 locations before its eventual decline. The last store closed its doors in 1991.

At the core of it though, people hardly ever decide on a restaurant just based on the food. It's about choosing the entire experience. Don't get me wrong, food is important but in today's age of transparency and accessibility, food is a passport factor. Restaurants moreover are highly emotional and social spaces and the only form of design that plays on all the 5 human senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Understanding and framing all those senses will almost always result in highly stimulating and successful environments.

Additionally, a successful social space will be highly attentive to ergonomics (our ideal relationship to, and interaction with objects around us based on our physical and mental condition) and proxemics (our ideal relationship between people and the space around us based on our emotional conditioning) The success therefore of one restaurant over another almost always comes down to which is most sensitive to natural, desired and predictive human behaviour.

More about this in our next newsletter... The complexity of Designing for Human Behaviour.


Article Acknowledgements:

1. Deposit Photos


Author: Callie Van Der Merwe Editor: Roberto Zambri

About the Author: Callie is an Architect turned Interior Designer turned

Human Behaviour Designer. He is also the founder of


Learn more about Designing for Human Behaviour.

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