Behavioral Economics and Design

3jL8tg4I’ve had a longstanding hunch that there is a deep connection between behavioral economics and design.  I was reminded of this possible overlap this afternoon as I was scanning John Sviokla’s blog, and noticed he has a passion for design.

In parallel, I have been chiseling at a crisp way to make more clear the difference between Consumerology (Express Scripts’ application of an advanced understanding of human behavior to healthcare) and consumerism.  Currently, it goes something like this:

Consumerism uses education and incentives to make the right thing more obvious.  Consumerology uses behavioral economics and choice architecture to make the most obvious thing right.

So right there’s the connection between behavioral economics and design: Well-executed choice architecture makes it easy and natural to do the right thing; well-executed design does exactly the same thing.

Great design — whether it’s an MP3 player, a stove, the humble paper clip — rarely needs an instruction manual.  Using a well-designed product is straightforward because what’s obvious to do turns out to be the right way to do it.

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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