The hidden influence of design

Nynke Tromp*, Paul Hekkert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific


Design co-shapes our actions, our habits and routines, and thereby society at large. Now this observation is not new at all. Sociologists like Akrich (1992) and Latour (1992), philosophers like McLuhan (1964) and, more recently, Verbeek (2005, 2011), and historians like Clarke (2014) revealed the power of the artefact in social life. They illuminated how mundane objects like doors and light switches prescribe specific actions, how the television and the microwave have co-construed family life, and how Tupperware or Barbie shape our culture and sub-cultures. In the light of design for behaviour change, these examples are remarkable. It is only through reflection that we start to recognize this less immediate yet influential role of ordinary products. This indicates that design can seemingly bring about behaviour change as if it comes naturally to people. Although this may sound worrisome to some, we consider this a promising quality of design. After all, wouldn’t it be great if the behaviours known to be beneficial to our wellbeing occur a bit more effortlessly? Wouldn’t it be great if we did not have to struggle so much ‘to do the right thing’?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign for Behaviour Change
Subtitle of host publicationTheories and Practices of Designing for Change
EditorsK. Niedderer, S. Clune, G. Ludden
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317152538
ISBN (Print)9781315576602
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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