Research Papers

Priming Designers to Communicate Sustainability

[+] Author and Article Information
Jinjuan She

e-mail: jjshe@iastate.edu

Erin MacDonald

e-mail: erinmacd@iastate.edu
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Iowa State University,
Ames, IA 50010

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received November 21, 2012; final manuscript received September 3, 2013; published online October 17, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Jonathan Cagan.

J. Mech. Des 136(1), 011001 (Oct 17, 2013) (12 pages) Paper No: MD-12-1578; doi: 10.1115/1.4025488 History: Received November 21, 2012; Revised September 03, 2013

Priming is a psychological experimental technique that uses an artifact, exposure, or experience to stimulate cognitive accessibility of specific mental content. Design techniques that use priming stimuli have thus far focused on generating more features, novel features, and relevant features and addressing latent customer needs. This article presents a design technique that uses priming specifically to help designers to communicate sustainability via design at an early stage in the design process. The authors have determined that sustainable products face a special challenge in the market because thoughtful sustainability features such as decreased energy usage, use of recycled materials, or manufacturing considerations are sometimes “hidden” from the customer. As green marketing messages are not always trusted, another approach is to communicate sustainability to the customer through product features. We propose and test a new design technique that uses psychological priming to help designers generate product features that communicate sustainability to the customer. The technique involves performing a sensory-and-sustainability-heightening activity before generating ideas for product features. We investigate priming stimuli in the form of a questionnaire and a collage activity and compare these techniques along with other existing priming-based techniques to a control condition. The new technique is proven to be more effective in helping designers generate product features that communicate sustainability, as judged by both experts and consumers.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Ramani, K., Ramanujan, D., Bernstein, W. Z., Zhao, F., Sutherland, J., Handwerker, C., Choi, J. K., Kim, H., and Thurston, D., 2010, “Integrated Sustainable Life Cycle Design: A Review,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(9), p. 091004. [CrossRef]
William, M., and McDonough, W., 2002, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press, New York, NY.
Luttropp, C., and Lagerstedt, J., 2006, “EcoDesign and The Ten Golden Rules: Generic Advice for Merging Environmental Aspects into Product Development,” J. Cleaner Prod., 14(15–16), pp. 1396–1408. [CrossRef]
Telenko, C., and Seepersad, C. C., 2010, “A Methodology for Identifying Environmentally Conscious Guidelines for Product Design,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(9), p. 091009. [CrossRef]
Van Hemel, C. G., and Keldmann, K., 1996, “Applying DFX Experience in Design for Environment,” Design for X: Concurrent Engineering Imperatives, G. Q.Huang, ed., Chapman & Hall, London, pp. 72–95.
Halog, A., 2001, “Using Quality Function Deployment for Technique Selection for Optimum Environmental Performance Improvement,” J. Cleaner Prod., 9, pp. 387–394. [CrossRef]
Devanathan, S., Ramanujan, D., Bernstein, W. Z., Zhao, F., and Ramani, K., 2010, “Integration of Sustainability Into Early Design Through the Function Impact Matrix,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(8), p. 081004. [CrossRef]
Fitzgerald, D. P., Herrmann, J. W., and Schmidt, L. C., 2010, “A Conceptual Design Tool for Resolving Conflicts Between Product Functionality and Environmental Impact,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(9), p. 091006. [CrossRef]
Bras, B., 1997, “Incorporating Environmental Issues in Product Design and Realization,” Ind. Environ., 20(1/2), pp. 7–13. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/record/display.url?eid=2-s2.0-0030622726&origin=inward&txGid=F2C54BBBDF00C4AEF49ECEB0EA9ECFAD.FZg2ODcJC9ArCe8WOZPvA%3a2
Roberts, J. A., 1996, “Green Consumers in the 1990s: Profile and Implications for Advertising,” J. Bus. Res., 36(3), pp. 217–231. [CrossRef]
MacDonald, E., 2008, “The Construction of Preference in Engineering Design and Implications for Green Products,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Olson, E., 2012, “It's Not Easy Being Green: The Effects of Attribute Tradeoffs on Green Product Preference and Choice,” J. Acad. Mark. Sci., 41(2), pp. 1–14. [CrossRef]
Rex, E., and Baumann, H., 2007, “Beyond Ecolabels: What Green Marketing Can Learn from Conventional Marketing,” J. Cleaner Prod., 15(6), pp. 567–576. [CrossRef]
Vestas, 2011, “Global Consumer Wind Study 2011,” Available at: http://www.vestas.com/files%2ffiler%2fen%2fpress_releases%2fbloombergvestas_june_2011%2fglobal_consumer_wind_study_2011.pdf, retrieved August 30, 2013.
Brannan, D., Heeter, J., and Bird, L., 2012, “Made With Renewable Energy: How and Why Companies Are Labeling Consumer Products,” National Renewable Energy Lab, Report No. TP-6A20-53764.
Jiang, Z. H., Shu, L. H., and Benhabib, B., 2000, “Reliability Analysis of Non-Constant-Size Part Populations in Design for Remanufacture,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 122(2), pp. 172–178. [CrossRef]
Kwak, M., Behdad, S., Zhao, Y., Kim, H., and Thurston, D., 2011, “E-Waste Stream Analysis and Design Implications,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 133(10), p. 101003. [CrossRef]
Behdad, S., Williams, A. S., and Thurston, D., 2012, “End-of-Life Decision Making With Uncertain Product Return Quantity,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 134(10), p. 100902. [CrossRef]
Yuan, C. Y., and Dornfeld, D. A., 2010, “A Schematic Method for Sustainable Material Selection of Toxic Chemicals in Design and Manufacturing,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(9), p. 091014. [CrossRef]
Rokka, J., and Uusitalo, L., 2008, “Preference for Green Packaging in Consumer Product Choices—Do Consumers Care?,” Int. J. Consum. Stud., 32(5), pp. 516–525. [CrossRef]
Slovic, P., 1995, “The Construction of Preference,” Am. Psychol., 50(5), pp. 364–371. [CrossRef]
McDonald, S., and Oates, C. J., 2006, “Sustainability: Consumer Perceptions and Marketing Strategies,” Bus. Strategy Environ., 15(3), pp. 157–170. [CrossRef]
Laufer, W. S., 2003, “Social Accountability and Corporate Greenwashing,” J. Bus. Ethics, 43(3), pp. 253–261. [CrossRef]
D'Souza, C., 2004, “Ecolabel Programmes: A Stakeholder (Consumer) Perspective,” Corp. Commun.: Int. J., 9(3), pp. 179–188. [CrossRef]
MacDonald, E., and She, J., 2012, “Seven Cognitive Concepts for Successful Sustainable Design,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Aug. 12–15, Chicago, IL.
MacDonald, E. F., Gonzalez, R., and Papalambros, P., 2009, “The Construction of Preferences for Crux and Sentinel Product Attributes,” J. Eng. Design, 20(6), pp. 609–626. [CrossRef]
Guyton, A. A., 2006, “Developing Sustainable Product Semantics For Consumer Products—A Sustainable Designer's Guide,” Master thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.
Reid, T. N., Gonzalez, R. D., and Papalambros, P. Y., 2010, “Quantification of Perceived Environmental Friendliness for Vehicle Silhouette Design,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(10), p. 101010. [CrossRef]
Srivastava, J., and Shu, L. H., 2012, “Affordance and Environmentally Significant Behavior,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Aug. 12–15, Chicago, IL.
Fogg, B., 2003, Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, CA.
Lilley, D., 2009, “Design for Sustainable Behaviour: Strategies and Perceptions,” Des. Stud., 30(6), pp. 704–720. [CrossRef]
Lin, J., and Seepersad, C. C., 2007, “Empathic Lead Users: The Effects of Extraordinary User Experiences on Customer Needs Analysis and Product Redesign,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Sep. 4–7, Las Vegas, NV, ASME, New York, NY, pp. 289–296.
Lewis, S., Dontcheva, M., and Gerber, E., 2011, “Affective Computational Priming and Creativity,” CHI: International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, May 7–12, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Linsey, J. S., Markman, A. B., and Wood, K. L., 2012, “Design by Analogy: A Study of the WordTree Method for Problem Re-Representation,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 134(4), 041009. [CrossRef]
Marsh, R. L., Bink, M. L., and Hicks, J. L., 1999, “Conceptual Priming in a Generative Problem-solving Task,” Mem. Cognit., 27(2), pp. 355–363. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Stapel, D. A., 2011, “Priming as Proxy: Understanding the Subjectivity of Social Life,” Cognitive Methods in Social Psychology, K.Klauer, A.Voss, and C.Stahl, eds., Guilford Press, New York, NY, pp. 148–183.
Mandel, N., and Johnson, E. J., 2002, “When Web Pages Influence Choice: Effects of Visual Primes on Experts and Novices,” J. Consum. Res., 29(2), pp. 235–245. [CrossRef]
Kay, A. C., Wheeler, S. C., Bargh, J. A., and Ross, L., 2004, “Material Priming: The Influence of Mundane Physical Objects on Situational Construal and Competitive Behavioral Choice,” Org. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process, 95(1), pp. 83–96. [CrossRef]
Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., Lee-Chai, A. Y., Barndollar, K., and Trötschel, R., 2001, “The Automated Will: Nonconscious Activation and Pursuit of Behavioral Goals,” J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., 81(6), pp. 1014–1027. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Sassenberg, K., and Moskowitz, G. B., 2005, “Don't Stereotype, Think Different! Overcoming Automatic Stereotype Activation by Mindset Priming,” J. Exp. Soc. Psychol., 41(5), pp. 506–514. [CrossRef]
Galinsky, A. D., and Moskowitz, G. B., 2000, “Counterfactuals as Behavioral Primes: Priming the Simulation Heuristic and Consideration of Alternatives,” J. Exp. Soc. Psychol., 36(4), pp. 384–409. [CrossRef]
McKoon, G., and Ratcliff, R., 1995, “Conceptual Combinations and Relational Contexts in Free Association and in Priming in Lexical Decision and Naming,” Psychon. Bull. Rev., 2(4), pp. 527–533. [CrossRef]
Tulving, E., Schacter, D. L., and Stark, H. A., 1982, “Priming Effects in Word-fragment Completion Are Independent of Recognition Memory,” J. Exp. Psychol. Learn. Mem. Cogn., 8(4), pp. 336–342. [CrossRef]
Custers, R., and Aarts, H., 2010, “The Unconscious Will: How the Pursuit of Goals Operates Outside of Conscious Awareness,” Science, 329(5987), pp. 47–50. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Ackerman, J., Nocera, C., and Bargh, J., 2010, “Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions,” Science, pp. 1712–1715.
Krishna, A., and Morrin, M., 2008, “Does Touch Affect Taste? The Perceptual Transfer of Product Container Haptic Cues,” J. Consum. Res., 34(6), pp. 807–818. [CrossRef]
Simon, H. A., 1956, “Rational Choice and The Structure of the Environment,” Psychol. Rev., 63(2), pp. 129–138. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Payne, J. W., Bettman, J. R., and Johnson, E. J., 1992, “Behavioral Decision Research—A Constructive Processing Respective,” Annu. Rev. Psychol., 43, pp. 87–131. [CrossRef]
Haubl, G., and Murray, K. B., 2003, “Preference Construction and Persistence in Digital Marketplaces: The Role of ElectronicRecommendation Agents,” J. Consum Psychol., 13(1–2), pp. 75–91.
Nedungadi, P., 1990, “Recall and Consumer Consideration Sets: Influencing Choice Without Altering Brand Evaluations,” J. Consum. Res., 17(3), pp. 263–276. [CrossRef]
Jansson, D. G., and Smith, S. M., 1991, “Design Fixation,” Des. Stud., 12(1), pp. 3–11. [CrossRef]
Linsey, J. S., Tseng, I., Fu, K., Cagan, J., Wood, K. L., and Schunn, C., 2010, “A Study of Design Fixation, Its Mitigation and Perception in Engineering Design Faculty,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(4), 041003. [CrossRef]
Higgins, J., 2005, 101 Creative Problem Solving Techniques: The Handbook of New Ideas for Business, New Management Publishing Company, Winter Park, FL.
Rickards, T., 1974, Problem Solving Through Creative Analysis Gower Technical Press, Essex, United Kingdom.
VanGundy, A. B., 1988, Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY.
Moore, P., and Conn, C. P., 1985, Disguised: A True Story, Word Books, Waco, TX.
Eden, H., Scharff, E., and Hornecker, E., 2002, “Multilevel Design and Role Play: Experiences in Assessing Support for Neighborhood Participation in Design,” Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques, Jun. 25–28, London, England, pp. 387–392.
Osborn, A. F., 1956, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of CreativeThinking, Scribner, New York, NY.
d.school, “Bootcamp Bootleg,” Available at: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/BootcampBootleg2010v2SLIM.pdf, retrieved August 30, 2013.
Gerber, L., 2008, “Developing an Idea by Throwing It Away,” Ambidextrous, (9), Available at: http://ambidextrousmag.org/issues/09/article.php?i9p41_43, retrieved August 30, 2013.
Smith, G. F., 1998, “Idea-Generation Techniques: A Formulary of Active Ingredient,” J. Creat. Behav., 32(2), pp. 107–133. [CrossRef]
Herring, S. R., Chang, C.-C., Krantzler, J., and Bailey, B. P., 2009, “Getting Inspired!: Understanding How and Why Examples are Used in Creative Design Practice,” CHI ’09 Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Boston, MA.
Shneiderman, B., 2000, “Creating Creativity: User Interfaces for Supporting Innovation,” ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact., 7(1), pp. 114–138. [CrossRef]
Fu, K., Cagan, J., and Kotovsky, K., 2010, “Design Team Convergence: The Influence of Example Solution Quality,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(11), 111005. [CrossRef]
Bruner, J. S., 1957, “On Perceptual Readiness,” Psychol. Rev., 64(2), pp. 123–152. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Bargh, J. A., and Chartrand, T. L., 2000, “The Mind in the Middle: A Practical Guide to Priming and Automaticity Research,” Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, H. T.Reis, and C. M.Judd, eds., Cambridge University, New York, NY, pp. 253–285.
Bohm, M. R., Haapala, K. R., Poppa, K., Stone, R. B., and Tumer, I. Y., 2010, “Integrating Life Cycle Assessment Into the Conceptual Phase of Design Using a Design Repository,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 132(9), p. 091005. [CrossRef]
Kudrowitz, B. M., and Wallace, D. R., 2010, “Assessing the Quality of Ideas From Prolific, Early-Stage Product Ideation,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Aug. 15–18, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, pp. 381–391.
She, J., and MacDonald, E., 2012, “Priming Designers to Communicate Sustainability,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Aug. 12–15, Chicago, IL.
Yilmaz, S., Daly, S. R., Seifert, C. M., and Gonzalez, R., 2011, “A Comparison of Cognitive Heuristics Use between Engineers and Industrial Designers,” Des. Comput. Cogn., 10, pp. 3–22.
Linsey, J. S., Green, M. G., Murphy, J. T., Wood, K. L., and Markman, A. B., 2005, “‘Collaborating To Success’: An Experimental Study of Group Idea Generation Techniques,” International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Sep. 24–28, Long Beach, CA, pp. 277–290.
Linsey, J. S., Clauss, E. F., Kurtoglu, T., Murphy, J. T., Wood, K. L., and Markman, A. B., 2011, “An Experimental Study of Group Idea Generation Techniques: Understanding the Roles of Idea Representation and Viewing Methods,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 133(3), p. 031008. [CrossRef]
Shah, J. J., Smith, S. M., and Vargas-Hernandez, N., 2003, “Metrics for Measuring Ideation Effectiveness,” Des. Stud., 24(2), pp. 111–134. [CrossRef]
Shah, J. J., Kulkarni, S. V., and Vargas-Hernandez, N., 2000, “Evaluation of Idea Generation Methods for Conceptual Design: Effectiveness Metrics and Design of Experiments,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 122(4), pp. 377–384. [CrossRef]
Yang, M., 2009, “Observations on Concept Generation and Sketching in Engineering Design,” Res. Eng. Des., 20(1), pp. 1–11. [CrossRef]
Kittur, A., Chi, E. H., and Suh, B., 2008, “Crowdsourcing User Studies With Mechanical Turk,” CHI 2008, Apr. 5–10, Florence, Italy.
Cronbach, L. J., and Shavelson, R. J., 2004, “My Current Thoughts on Coefficient Alpha and Successor Procedures,” Educ. Psychol. Meas., 64(3), pp. 391–418. [CrossRef]
Mason, W., and Suri, S., 2012, “Conducting Behavioral Research on Amazon's Mechanical Turk,” Behav. Res. Methods, 44(1), pp. 1–23. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Kutner, M. H., Nachtsheim, C. J., Neter, J., and Li, W., 2005, Applied Linear Statistical Models, McGraw-Hill Irwin, Boston, MA.
Stone, G., Barnes, J. H., and Montgomery, C., 1995, “Ecoscale: A Scale for the Measurement of Environmentally Responsible Consumers,” Psychol. Market., 12(7), pp. 595–612. [CrossRef]
Gelman, A., and Hill, J., 2007, Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models, Cambridge University, New York, NY.
Kliegl, R., Masson, M. E. J., and Richter, E. M., 2009, “A Linear Mixed Model Analysis of Masked Repetition Priming,” Visual Cogn., 18(5), pp. 655–681. [CrossRef]
Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., and Bates, D. M., 2008, “Mixed-Effects Modeling with Crossed Random Effects for Subjects and Items,” J. Mem. Lang., 59(4), pp. 390–412. [CrossRef]


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Demonstration of a collage output

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Empathic devices (left) and positive priming image, Lewis et al. [33] (right)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

An overview of the experiment

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Comparison of measures across the five priming conditions based on AMT judges' ratings (*p < 0.05, compared with the control condition); error bars show ± 1 standard error

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Comparison of measures across priming conditions based on expert judges' ratings (*p < 0.05, compared with the control condition); error bars show ± 1 standard error

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Comparison of expert and AMT judges' ratings, in conditions A, B, and E, (N = 30) on measure A




Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In