Designing for human behaviour in a systemic world

Anja Maier, Philip Cash

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter addresses designing for human behaviour in a systemic world. Many theories and examples of behavioural interventions are available to designers today, from fields spanning the natural, social, behavioural, health, and technical sciences. This chapter provides an overview and synthesis of approaches, as well as guidance through this landscape for designers. Literature is reviewed from two
perspectives: (i) 'technology-first', where technology is the primary driver of design, and (ii) 'human-first', where it is human behaviour that is the driver and focus. Further, the review covers three main levels of intervention: (i) individual or micro-, (ii) group or meso-, and (iii) societal- or macro-level. Perspectives and levels are synthesised via a 'design as connector' lens, bridging insights ranging from engineering to policy. Based on this synthesis, it is shown that in order to create and sustain change in a systemic world, designers need to consider combinations of interventions across multiple levels that work together in both the short and longer term. We encapsulate this into four main points of guidance, illustrated by examples from health behaviour, sustainable behaviour, and urban planning. Collectively, this opens new directions for engineering systems design researchers and provides practitioners with practical guidance for navigating this complex landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Engineering Systems Design
EditorsAnja Maier, Josef Oehmen, Pieter Vermaas
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9783030460549
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2022


  • behavioural design
  • design for behaviour change
  • engineering systems
  • engineering systems design
  • human behaviour
  • intervention design
  • social design
  • design
  • systems thinking
  • systems


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