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Design Nudges for Sustainable Consumption


Can hacking the graphic & packing design of daily commodities change the way we consume? 

What are the most effective visual elements to engage consumers with sustainability to inform better shopping decisions?

DNfSC Intro

Positive, Neutral and Negative Angles of Sustainability Communication

Can altering the graphic/packing design of PET-bottled liquids induce

sustainable consumption behaviours?

Design Nudges for Sustainable Consumption is an interdisciplinary research and practice project that aims to test the possibilities of engaging environmental ethics via hacking the graphic/packaging design of plastic-bottled liquids. Starting with the ethology and psychology of consumer behaviour, it explores sustainability communication, packaging and graphic design research.

Based on secondary theoretical and practical research, a hypothesis framework is built to serve as the design scaffolding for creating prototypes that display positive, neutral and negative angles of approach to sustainability information. These design prototypes are used to test the level of environmental engagement via qualitative psychological experiments while only critically unsustainable consumers are selected as participants. The final result is the preliminary effort of analytical induction from the identified data samples gathered within the given time frame.

From the primary data analysis, this project has identified the hidden priorities within consumers’ mind while shopping for daily commodities (the fast-moving consumer goods sector). Ranging from necessity, affordability, content awareness and seven other categories, consumers’ internal dialogues are demonstrated in the order of significance.

Based on the preliminary psychological feedbacks, current plastic-bottled water has failed to engage consumers with environmental ethics at all, scoring 0 out of 100. Furthermore, positive communication can be perceived as condescending and thus disengage the participants. Approaching from the negative angle is not anyhow better because of how it elicits guilt and fear to provoke weary minds and thus become irrelevant to the participants. Surprisingly, since neutral communication employs playful interaction, inconvenience and distraction, it performs better at facilitating sustainable consumption behaviour among the least sustainability-conscious demographic.

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