Enabling Smarter Choices by Merging Interaction + Behaviour Design

The IxD.ma program has a strong focus on teaching the mindset and values needed for 21st-century designers. A lot of those values center around ethics, and the immense impact designers can have in helping to solve some of the pressing issues around us.

For the Social Innovation class of 2018, our students worked with three diverse Estonian non-profit organisations to explore how human-centered interaction and behaviour design could be merged to help the partners on their vigorous journeys.


Introducing True Circular Behaviour Among Family Heads

The Estonian Re-Use Center had noticed that people who bring in their old belongings for reuse usually never shop at the Center themselves. How could we close the gap and introduce true circular behaviour among their clients?

Epp, Nesli, Katre, and Martin set out to find out what makes sustainable customers act the way they do, and what’s stopping the others from adopting greener choices. In their exploration, they conducted tens of conversations with representatives from each group, which allowed them to compare their intents, thoughts, and behaviours.

The team had conversations and tried working at the distributing center

The team then applied several methods to synthesise the stories heard. They built behavioural personas, job stories and mapped down the customer journey side-by-side with the Transtheoretical Model for Behavioural Change to pin down possibilities where designers could interfere — they main ones found to be the lack of time and motivation. Which led the team to state their HMWs:

  1. How Might We make buying second hand the option one—fast and easy?
  2. How Might We create a feeling of being a hero when buying second hand?

Ideation could begin! Starting to feel the first symptoms of post-if fatigue, the team chose to prototype as their main ideation method. For many sessions, the students drew flows, generated quick mock-ups, enacted scenarios and filmed them for review.

Ideation by prototyping

It was soon discovered that a fundamental change was needed in how UKK operates. Currently, the goods for sale are distributed between shops and put on a display based on subjective best guesses by employees. This approach is quick and effective but makes it hard to systemise what is sold where—thus making it impossible to shop fast. The designers proposed UKK to create a tagged catalogue of their items, which would enable a systematic approach to distributing goods, and also start selling online.

It was discovered during research, that the Center is considered by the target group as a “place where you get rid of stuff”. To shift the paradigm and make it appealing to self-aware consumers, the students proposed the non-profit to introduce a new brand UKK, which together with aggressive marketing (“fUKK Overconsumption!”) would make their customers feel empowered, climate-saving heroes.

With these changes in place, the team continued to discover ways in which UKK could now employ different methods to nudge their clients towards sustainable choices. The main focus was not to develop new digital products, but rather enhance the ones the target group was using. Some of them were:

  1. A filtering browser plugin, which would display similar products from UKK when shopping online;
  2. A LinkedIn Group Challenge feature, that would gamify the shopping experience and give direct feedback on ecological impact;
  3. A LinkedIn profile feature, that would enable users to show off their ecological accomplishments.

Demystifying Sexual Health Among Young Adults

The Men’s Health Clinic of University of Tartu, a youth counselling center, asked the students to make sense of why 95% of their clients are actually girls, and if it is a situation they need to worry about.

Madeleine, Maret, Mike Lo and Erik started off their discovery by mapping the situation from different perspectives, conducting conversations with doctors, youth counsellors and teachers, parents and young men. As this was a very sensitive topic, ethics and ensuring anonymity were a big part of the research phase.

The team understood soon that they had stumbled upon a difficult topic spanning over generations: the taboo of sexual health among young men, with many problems surfacing from upbringing and communication, ice-cold father-son relationships to taboos of men crying and expressing their feelings.

Given the complexity of these topics, time constraints, and the team’s wish to develop a simple tangible concept that could be evaluated, it was decided to narrow their focus on young men in 20s who use dating apps for casual sex. The challenge was set to prevention, to reduce the need to go to a doctor in the first place.

The team used various methods and the Health Belief Model to come up with ways to make young men acknowledge the possible dangers of unsafe sex, and thus nudge them towards using condoms. They came up with a concept for a simple 2-step system:

  1. An AI and machine-learning based extension to Tinder, that would detect the right context and send a nudge to users who are about to meet up.
  2. As a follow-up nudge, Uber cars and taxies could start selling Tinder-branded glow-in-the-dark condoms, that would shift the image of condoms from something tedious to a fun foreplay item.

Breaking Taboos Around Donations

80% of Estonians donate never or only once per year during a Christmas campaign. The Good Deed Foundation wanted to know why it might be so, and if something could be done to improve the situation.

Jaak, Marharyta and Mike started the process by digging into statistics and soon discovered that the least likely to donate are men aged 18 to 35. The team chose to focus on them for exploratory conversations.

After downloading and synthesising their findings with the help of the Social Learning Theory, telling patterns started to surface:

  1. Talking about donating is considered bragging and not polite, it’s a taboo.
  2. There’s a lack of trust toward funds and umbrella organisations.
  3. There’s lack of information: young males don’t use conventional media.
  4. Donation platforms need to be easier: the longer it takes to make a donation online the fewer people end up donating.

The team then mapped the issues on the Social Ecological Model and decided to focus on the taboo topic. It seemed the most intriguing, and expanding over several social spheres, necessitated several distinct solution ideas.

On the community level, the team suggested employing high-level influencers to open the topic for the public. The team also tested several ideas for interactive campaigns, which would first grab attention with intriguing messages, and then follow up with educational content. Addressing the subject in primary school classrooms was also recommended.

The second idea was centred around improving the Good Deed Foundation’s fundraising platform, armastanaidata.ee with social gamification mechanics. The concept would help to build a community atmosphere, where participants would feel empowered in sharing their willingness to help, talking about it would be reframed from bragging to helping and inviting.

This would be achieved by classical gamification methods and also using several small nudges, such as displaying endorsing as a natural part of donations, displaying active friends and influencers as social proof, clever copy and design elements to flip the social norms around sharing, etc.


The teams were mentored by Riina Raudne (PhD in Public Health) and Tanel Kärp (IxD.ma), with help from Lauren Kelly (Behaviour Studio) and Amid Moradganjeh (IxD.ma)