Theory-Driven or Theory-Informed? A Review of Behavioural Economics in Design

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6 Scopus citations


The design community has an increasing interest in behaviour change and applying it intentionally in design processes. At the same time, practitioners from diverse fields such as health and policy have embraced behavioural economics theory to inform behaviour change interventions. The success of behavioural economics—or nudge—theory can be explained by its visible results with small investments; however, its application is limited to discrete problems and long-term effects are unclear. Designers look for possibilities and desirable futures rather than discrete interventions based on science. This article is a critical review of behavioural economics theory and its limited application in designing products and systems that are expected to change human behaviours or lifestyles. A behavioural economics-driven design process only works for situations that are narrow and specific. In the majority of design projects, behavioural economics concepts are a reference that informs designers and some design activities like ideation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-587
Number of pages21
JournalDesign Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • behavioural economics
  • design for behaviour change
  • design process
  • nudge
  • systemic design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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