Imagine your presented with a choice, to walk up a flight of stairs or step onto an escalator, which do you choose? Most likely the lazy option, you take the escalator. We have been conditioned to use these machines as an aid of convenience. Although most young abled bodied people would not sweat walking a short flight of stairs. Its natural human behaviour to like a shortcut.
Volkswagen Sweden in 2009 commissioned a series of unique design installations for their ‘Theory Of Fun’ Campaign. The aim of these projects were to engage the public audience and change behaviour towards societal issues and tasks.
The project in focus here was the ‘Piano Staircase’ which installed an array of trigger sensitive keys across the staircase in a Swedish train station. Hooked up to a sound module and loudspeakers, the commuters discovered play and fascination with interacting via said staircase. The result of this design injected fun into walking stairs, allowing people to unknowingly benefit from the physical exercise. The success of the project resonated around the world with installations in half a dozen cities such as Melbourne.
Toyko has a similar themed installation throughout some of their staircases. Several people online have photographed and blogged about this interesting find. This visual communication benefits users by acting on their behaviour and motivation, ability and triggers which is mapped out by BJ Foggs, author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Sille Krukow, Behavioural designer & Senior Advisor at Stupid Studio ran a talk at TEDxCopenhagen echoing these factors in that humans are inherently lazy. She outlines that positive, simple, fun designs can challenge the norms we associate with and allow for improvements in peoples behaviour. Dr Dan Lockton argues in depth the positive effects that result from these interactions but also highlights the triggers and behavioral change symptoms which is helpful in improving these innovative social experiments.
Variations of this theme can be found on the ‘Theory Of Fun’ website. Finalist Felix Möller and Daniel Westhof created the Scratch Mat. They found that most people entering a building did not clean their shoes. By creating a fun interactive mat the two engaged users by striking similarities with a DJ scratching turntable. As seen in the video, by scratching shoes over the mat, the shop music would scratch simultaneously resulting in an interactive fun experience void of the awareness in cleaning you shoes.
Another example of engaging users and changing behaviour was Blok Designs ‘Not Myself Today’ installation. An exercise in mental health awareness, the engaging exhibit design located in busy Toronto train station drew in passers by and allowed the public to pin a mood badge to themselves. It was hoped that the message communicated through these badges would spark conversation about mental health and aid in more awareness of the foundation it promoted.
The discourse these projects highlight is the challenging of norms in everyday objects and landscapes. It highlights play, fun and degrees of fidgeting in public environments. Removing or disguising negative issues by changing behaviour.