What we stand for
When you live in a city like Antwerp, everything that surrounds you is designed: The buildings and streets, the parks and districts, the clothes you wear, the chair you sit on, the flat you live in, the technology woven into every aspect of your life - everything has been (well or badly) designed by designers. Designers carry a huge responsibility: their designs, whether they are products or product-service systems, shape people, their attitudes and their behavior. Therefore, designers carry the responsibility that their designs affect people and society for the better.
Our research is built around a number of key principles:
- We aim to design for inclusiveness. We do this by developing products and services that are useful to people of all ages and abilities, while embracing the synergy between technology and well-being.
- We acknowledge that technology, and indeed design, is never neutral. The physical and social environment we inhabit, with the products and product-service systems in it, shapes us and influences the way we think, act and interact with each other..
- Design is critical in translating technology not just into workable, but also meaningful solutions that serve people individually and as a society.
How do people understand, use and experience products and situations? How does design influence our behaviour? How can we make products (and services) relevant to the everyday life of people in an inclusive and responsible way? How can we design products were physical and digital components reinforce each other? These are just some of the questions that our research group explores. In answering them, we focus on the cognitive, emotional and bodily aspects of human-product interactions, such as user-friendliness, motivation, (social) product acceptance and embodied interaction. Below are some of the key research streams in our lab:
Research through Design
We conduct a specific form of design research: Research through Design (RtD). Within RtD, the designer/researcher generates knowledge through the act of designing. We believe that the specific nature of design skills and design knowledge leverage a unique research approach, which allows the designer/researcher to do what he/she does best: challenging the status quo by thinking in possibilities. Our research is explicitly aimed at innovation. We think ‘what can be’, rather than ‘what is’. In an iterative process where design, reflection and verification are continuously interchanged, possible future scenarios for products and product-service systems are explored.
The knowledge resulting from this process crystallizes in two different ways. First, there is the overall rationale that was developed during the research process. This rationale is established in written outcome. Second, there are the different artifacts that were built. They constitute the non-written outcome of the RtD process, and they illustrate and particularize the written rationale. We call them demonstrators or physical knowledge carriers.
In the lab and in the wild
The demonstrators that we craft, are tested in well-controlled lab studies, but also in long-term field studies in real-life settings. Our research infrastructure enables a flexible movement from exploring promising markers in the lab to checking their robustness in realistic contexts, and back again.
Products and proxemics
We study how people interact with spaces and environments, and how this interaction influences their behaviour, communication with each other. Our research topics in this context are Space theory and Product-related Stigma.
We explore how design can influence, shape and change human behaviour to improve the lives of individuals and society. Our Behavioural Design practice delivers tangible and measurable impact through behavioural interventions that make a real difference to the lives and experiences of people. Our approach is informed by behavioural scientific insights that show us that humans are often irrational beings, driven by emotions, unconscious biases and motivations and social context, and that information alone doesn't change behaviour. In our projects, we take a creative user-centric approach to develop a deep understanding of the context and systems in which a target behaviour occurs and design interventions to influence real behaviour change and to help address complex challenges.
1. The Enriching Physical: Embodying digital phenomena
How can we make human interaction with digital phenomena more substantial, important and valuable? One way of doing that is by enriching them through physical artefacts and environments. This approach is very much situated within the research tradition of embodied interaction, which describes the interplay between the brain, the body and the environment and its influence on the sharing, creation and manipulation of meaningful interactions with technology. Note that embodied interaction is not merely about making interaction with technology and the digital world more natural and intuitive. It is also about deepening our rootedness and embedment in the physical and social environment. Perhaps the aspects of the physical world that we tend to experience as limitations (e.g. persistence (?), slowness and fragility), are in fact the characteristics that can provide weight and meaning to our interaction with digital technology. It’s not just about designs that are instrumental and pragmatic, it’s about exploring the essence of what it means to be human through the design of artefacts and technology.
2. Inclusive Design: Design to empower everyone
Inclusive design aims at products and services accessible for the full spectrum of human needs and abilities. Successful inclusive design will empower a diverse population by improving human performance, health and well-being, and social participation. Our research addresses design for health, emotion, wellbeing, or behaviour change, allowing fruitful cooperation with disciplines such as social sciences, psychology, marketing research, and others.
3. The Semiotics of physical human augmentation
This research aims to establish a research-based framework for the development of human-augmentation products that strengthen the user's identity or capabilities by capturing contextual and physiological user input. Human augmentation is an interdisciplinary field that aims to enhance and amplify human abilities. It comprises many different types of technological apparatuses such as prosthetics, orthotics, and physically assistive devices that replace missing or lost functions, exoskeletons that extend physical abilities, or head-up-displays using augmented reality or virtual reality.
4. Behavioural Design - Applications
Our group has extensive experience applying behavioural design, as a means to enable social and behavioural change, in research projects and contract work for industry and government involving clients: From developing an ICT intervention to help communities reduce problematic behaviour, developing digital solutions for improving compliance with court ordered bail and parole conditions, to improving security behaviours in government agencies and industry (e.g through digital applications, but also changes to the physical environment). We are also collaborating with colleagues from the US, UK and EU on research aimed at increasing compliance with COVID 19 requirements through persuasion techniques. More recently, Prof Van Rooy led a project for the local government that was focused on using behavioural design techniques to promote more sustainable behaviour, which lead to the development of a number of prototypes, for instance aimed at helping people understand why and how homes, workplaces and businesses can be improved to make better use of energy. This line of work has been funded by government agencies and through collaborations with industry.
1. Lab facilities
- Eye-tracking (Pupil Labs - Model: Pupil Core): Capturing human attention in relation to products, assistive aids, prototypes.
- Cameras for observational research: capturing behavioural reactions.
- Capturing Physiological parameters related to stress and emotion –Biosignalplux Explorer: 4 Channel Hub with 4 sensor: EEG sensor / EMG headband; GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) / Temperature sensor / EKG Sensor
- Noldus Explorer
Empathy & simulation tools – Inclusive design lab
- Age simulation suit (GERonTologic simulator GERT) consists of a series of separate components. Reductions in sensory motor skills associated with old age can be simulated.
- Empathy gloves that can simulate a user with arthritis (Cambridge Simulation gloves): these gloves limit the range of motion, freedom of movement, strength and dexterity (dexterity) of fingers and hand.
- Tremor simulator gloves
- Empathy glasses simulate a limitation in vision (Cambridge Simulation glasses).
Social and behaviour change initiatives
It is becoming clear that technical approaches alone are often insufficient to sustain behaviour change, and instead we’re seeing attempts to influence users’ behaviour through interventions designed into a product (e.g. feedback on energy consumption), the use of persuasive design (Fogg & Eckles, 2007) or through the use of nudges that tap into often unconscious drivers of behaviour (Van Rooy et al., 2003; Thaler & Sunstein, 2009). We can help groups of citizens, communities and organisations, including partners from the “social economy” (e.g cooperative, not-for-profit), design behaviour change initiatives from the bottom-up, e.g through participatory, codesign approaches.
Behavioural insights: Understanding people in their context
Using short, intense research sprints, combined with rapid evidence and practice reviews, we can help clients (organisations, government agencies) understand common and complex social, environmental and organisational problems by examining them through a behavioural lens. Our co-design approach means we maximise opportunities for knowledge co-creation, and the translation of research evidence into practical insights.
Organizations and government agencies often find themselves in a situation where time and budget constraints do not allow for extensive research projects and systematic reviews. We provide a fast, cost-effective and reliable route to defining a problem space and identifying an initial set of answers through intense research sprints during which insights from field work and existing evidence are efficiently synthesised within a short timeframe.
We provide workshops on data skills for professionals in government and industry. Tailored to the audience, it will allow participants to either get a broad introduction to behavioural insights and behavioural science, or to develop a deep understanding of quantitative and qualitative methods.
Attend & learn how to
- Recognise different research designs & the different ways to collect data
- Understand how different designs produce different types of evidence
- Determine the quality of evidence
- Understand how a Theory of Change can be used to develop evidence-based policies
- Determine what types of data can be used to evaluate policies
- Distinguish between contribution versus attribution analysis
2. In house training
Traineeships in behavioural design, design research and data skills
In collaboration with industry and government agencies, we are happy to provide traineeships in our lab. This can be part or separate of a larger research or design project. Depending on the requirements, the trainee will be able to use the lab facilities, and will be provided expert supervision by our senior staff, who have deep expertise in a number of areas: from fundamental to basic research, design and data science.
Related product development courses:
- Inclusive Design (3BaPO)
- UX Design exercise (3BaPO)
- User Centered Design (3BaPO)
- Design for Interaction: Fundamentals (1MaPO)
- Design for Interaction: Module 1 (1MaPO)
- Design for interaction: Module 2 (2MaPO)
- Master projects (2MaPO)