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Designing for Behaviour Change

We were invited to join Dr. Bon Ku on the Design Lab Podcast to share a bit about who we are, what we do, and why behavioural design holds the key to better health for all.

Bon is a physician, professor, author, and avid surfer based in Philadelphia, USA. He is the Associate Dean for Health & Design at Thomas Jefferson University, where he teaches emergency medicine and leads the Health Design Lab. He co-wrote Health Design Thinking with Ellen Lupton in 2022, a practice-based guide to applying human-centred design principles to real-world health challenges.

He hosts The Design Lab Podcast to speak with design and health practitoners from all over the globe and share stories at the intersection of design, science and humanity. You can listen to our episode below.

Check out the show notes for the transcript and links to everything we mentioned. Here’s a reflection on our episode from the producer that we loved reading:

“we empathize, we try to listen, we understand, and then we design”

In this quote that I wanted to highlight from our conversation this week, Sherine was responding to the question about how Common Thread brings creativity to public health. Mike and Sherine explained how their group and the many people who work there were motivated by frustration. They had seen the same mistakes playing out over and over and realized that there was a better way to do public health. Sherine mentions that every project they undertake begins with research design. The idea that step one is to listen to and understand people, to gain empathy, is something that is absolutely core to the design process. To expect someone to take an intended action based upon a designed intervention, if you don’t understand them, seems preposterous to anyone in the world of design. However, it seems that this is exactly how many public health interventions have been created. In the interview, our guests point to COVID vaccines as an example of this. Scientists and most of the public health world saw technological advancement and then access to vaccines as the primary barrier. However, in many places, we saw that was not the case. The actual needs, desires, and motivations of real people on the ground were far more complex than anyone expected and so the real problem was not supply, it was design. Increasing the efficacy of public health programs needs more research design, experience design, and strategy design. We still need technological advancements, we still need access, and we still need that critical scientific data, but we also need cultural awareness, regional and hyperlocal connectivity, compelling storytelling, and of course, creativity! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the case studies on for some great examples of impact, creativity, and storytelling.

Written by Rob Pugliese

Thanks for the kind words, Rob!

We’d love to know what you think about the episode. If you’re intrigued, confused, or even slightly disturbed, please drop us a line. And don’t forget to sign up for the Design Lab Podcast’s newsletter so you never miss an episode!

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