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.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

An overview of the experiment

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Fig. 2

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

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Fig. 1

Demonstration of a collage output

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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

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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. 7

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



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