Category Archives: observations

From Laura Taylor

Using Design to Change Social Norms

I just read this interesting research by some University of Minnesota researchers published by the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported by MinnPost. The researches were able to increase vegetable consumption among primary school children by printing photos of vegetables on their lunch trays.

“We also expected it to work,” Mann added, ” because we were inducing a norm. We were giving kids the impression that [filling a particular part of their tray with a particular vegetable] was what people did. And norms have a powerful effect on behavior.”

The idea of setting new social norms is a very simple, yet powerful idea that has implications in many settings. Marketers understand this: in fast food advertisements there’s always fries and a drink with each meal, setting the expectation of what constitutes a meal.

A similar proposal about redesigning the lunch tray was put forth by Brian Wansink to change the layout, but without the use  of printed graphics.

I think that if this simple idea were implemented long-term, it would really change the expectation for what eating a meal in the cafeteria means.

Marla Reicks, PhD; Joseph P. Redden, PhD; Traci Mann, PhD; Elton Mykerezi, PhD; Zata Vickers, PhD. Photographs in Lunch Tray Compartments and Vegetable Consumption Among Children in Elementary School CafeteriasJAMA. 2012;307(8):784-785. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.170.


Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen
Very obvious chorus at the beginning and middle of the song. Not that interesting, actually. But a good comparison for a prototypical pop song.

Song Analytics with The Infinite Jukebox

I was totally impressed when The Infinite Jukebox blew up on the internet in November (thanks to The Verge). When I had a chance to look at it initially the service was so overwhelmed that Paul Lemere only let Call Me Maybe be played to reduce his server load. That one song was a great introduction to both the technology and the visualization style he chose. After spending some more time playing with the Infinite Jukebox there are some interesting songs I want to share.

What I think is so great about the site is that it shows you where and how longs loop on themselves. It’s not revolutionary to figure out that songs have verses and choruses, but I really like that with the chord diagram you can see how and where songs repeat themselves. It’s been fun to not only listen, but to follow songs visually and discover how the artists put them together. The song starts at the top of the chord diagram and moves clock-wise. Each beat is assigned a color based on it’s sound signature. Similar beats are linked. (More details on the FAQ)

Here are some examples I think are interesting:


Unboxing the Medtronic CareLink Home Monitor

I found this video of a man opening his new CareLink Home Monitor when it was posted on our Yammer network. It has a new pacemaker patient opening and showing the content of his new CareLink Home Monitor. The CareLink Home Monitor is a device that gathers data from a patient’s cardiac device and sends it to their physician’s office for review. The CareLink Network has a website that the physician and patient can see the data from the device in charts and graphs and the physician can import that data into their EMR system. Pretty neat stuff.

Reaching his hand into the box
Getting all of the cables out of the box.

However, what I’m interested in is the experience this guy has opening the box. The entire CareLink Network doesn’t work if the patient can’t get the device set up and working properly. So when he opened the box I was disheartened to see that it looked like a Dell computer box. Everything was packaged in one compartment, cords were stuffed into one side of the cardboard sleeve, the instructions were in a plastic back dropped on the bottom, and the instructional DVD was floating in the box by itself. It struck me as a gap in our ability to deliver a good patient experience. I know we would have tested the experience of using the monitor, the instruction card, and probably everything in the box; just not the process of opening the box itself. I’m not here to indict the package designer who created the packaging. I’m sure it’s the cheapest and most efficient design that can stand up to any abuse it might encounter in shipping. But I don’t think that’s enough any more. We need to move from a pure engineering company, to a company that’s passionate about the experience.

Now I don’t want to just complain without offering a solution. I think we have to look at the current state of consumer electronics for a good direction. I recently purchased a Belkin wireless router for my home. The box had a flip-top lid, which has a greater surface area that showed me both the router itself and the single-page quick start guide. As I pulled out the router the network cord and power cable were labeled with large numbers and already attached, ready to use. The only thing I had to do was plug it into the wall and my modem. Another nice touch was that the unique network password was printed on the bottom of the router itself so you would never lose it. All thoughtful touches that make the experience of using the product for the first time more enjoyable.

As another example that’s totally unfair example I present the Presentation Zen Bento box, a DVD, sketchbook, and accessories to improve your presentation skills. I think it’s a great example of how the attention to the experience changes the perception of the product. A DVD and sketchbook aren’t anything truly special, but the presentation makes it remarkable. (and you can get it on Amazon for under $30)

Conference Rooms A, D, B, C

We’ve needed way finding signage in our new building ever since we’ve moved in October. Over the weekend they thankfully added placards on each floor near the stairs showing which direction the conference rooms are. But, I’m totally flabbergasted on how they decided to order them.

Though this is totally needless, I will do it to satisfy my inner need to make things right.

Here is how I would change the sign

< Conf. Room 4N A
Conf. Room 4N B
Conf. Room 4N C
Conf. Room 4N D
^ Conf. Room 4N E
Conf. Room 4N F
CAPA Project Room
Conf. Room 4NW A
Conf. Room 4NW B
Conf. Room 4NW C

Come on people, this isn’t that hard.

Turn Off Electronic Devices

Just saw this for the first time on a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis.


My Brazilian Embaer 175 had a “Turn Off Electronic Devices” light instead of no smoking, which is brilliant. In looking into the details a little further, it appears that they could only safely make this change as late as 1989 for flights under 2 hours, 1990 for under 6 hours and 2000 for all flights (in the US). I had no idea you could have flown a plane as late as 1989 with someone right next to you smoking away. Next it’s going to be the rise and fall of cell phones on planes…