Thursday, October 1, 2009

Am I Being Brainwashed? (#TEDxNCL)

Interesting and thought provoking evening at TEDx in Newcastle yesterday (#TEDxNCL). Daniel Pink's video was very interesting, but I was most engaged by the two live speakers who talked about user experience design.

As a business and as a consumer, I can see the need for good design of the user experience. I stood in the bar with a group afterwards where we named umpteen elements of user experience on the web where things could drastically improve for the customer. In business, we all need to find better ways to engage with our users in order to find and retain more customers - and some of the examples of design given during the talks were truly impressive, making me think straight away about how to do things better.

But it also made me think about how I make my buying decisions. These days it seems that companies are using all sorts of subliminal methods to make me buy stuff. I talk on the phone or have face to face pretty regularly with someone who's doing NLP or some other Jedi thing on me. Now I find that the designers are at it as well.

Now, I'm all for buying quality, good value, products that satisfy a need or solve a problem but now I worry about where my need or my problem is coming from. Is it from me, or am I being manipulated beyond my control? I need to think seriously about developing some kind of mental resistance - in the meantime, I'm making a kitchen foil hat to keep those messages at bay and keeping a close eye on my bank balance.


  1. Hi David,

    Making a good user experience has been around for hundreds of years, it's only recently that is has come in to common knowledge. Now, with companies actually disclosing the information and great teachers/practitioners like Clearleft do we see this more and more.

    It's definitely not something that you can hide from. An experience is just that, it is something that you can go through. The experience could be incredible but if it is not to your taste then it won't flick your switch.

    Your question was great last night, and was a thoroughly enjoyable conference in general.


  2. Influence and persuasion are everywhere! We designers are fairly new to the party. This might sound like an odd question but do you use deodorant? The need for deodorant was created by marketing.

    There's a fascinating article in the Times Online from a while back about Axe trying to bring about behaviour change for the sake of their product:

    "He said that the region was a billion-pound opportunity – “the last empty space on the map”. He estimated that only 7 per cent of Asians used a deodorant, with consumption in India virtually nil, and his team is dreaming up advertisements that will induce shame about sweat stains and odour across the region."

    I highly recommend Influence by Robert Cialdini if you want a bit of info on the science behind all this.