Becoming a BAD behavioural designer

Published by Alex Kristal on

Becoming a BAD behavioural designer

Table of contents

BAD jokes

It’s no surprise that workplace training, typically mandatory training, has the stigma of being soulless and dry.

“I just click through it” most of my friends tell me. “Please tell me you don’t make those. Why are they always so bad?”

You can imagine my anxiety at dinner parties when friends of friends ask me what I do. I don’t want people to think I’m soulless and dry.

“I design home kitchens…” I answer. It’s a job that the crowd at this dinner party will see as cool, fun, and creative.

“You what? No way! How did you get into that?”

And then I continue as if I hadn’t finished my sentence.

“Except they’re not kitchens, they’re corporate training modules…” and crack a smile because we both know that corporate training is nowhere near as fun as home renovation, but this bad joke allows me to make my case.

“But they’re essentially the same job, hear me out!” We all share a laugh.

I’m not actually self-conscious about being a Behavioural Designer at BAD, I love it and love the identity I get to wear as a designer. The issue is that people sometimes expect training and digital learning experiences in general to be painful. The process and final product can actually be quite fun, much like sitting down with someone to design their kitchen. Imagine the conversation:

“Tell me what ideas you’ve had for your kitchen. Do you want something innovative and exciting? Something classic but highly functional? Let’s talk about what you want out of your kitchen, and I’ll find a way to bring it to you. We’ll work together, this’ll be fun.

In the same way I work with clients to understand what specifically they want out of their training, and then we work together to build it. Sometimes they have no idea what they want, so we work together to uncover what’s important to them.

So, you see, my kitchen explanation is so much better than telling people “I make soulless and dry workplace training,” because that simply isn’t the truth.

But Alex, I thought you were an academic?

Before working as a Behavioural Designer at BAD, I was a PhD student studying consumer behaviour, and before that I was a Lab Manager at The University of Chicago: Center for Decision Research. I didn’t have a funny line to explain these jobs.

I love studying human behaviour, specifically, being able to articulate behaviour and understand its mechanisms and influences. I’ll be honest though; it’s been hard at times to twist myself into the role of a designer.

What I’ve learned is that, and pardon another food metaphor, being an expert in a social science is sometimes like being a culinary expert. You have this specialist knowledge to discover and create amazing new flavours and pairings that people will love, akin to a social scientist who may discover new facets of behaviour that can be utilized in learning. However, a culinary expert might not be the right fit for running a catering service. In catering, you need to know how to deliver an experience to a group of people, that means understanding what the client wants and how to meet their needs. It’s about the whole experience. This is where the design brain comes in. It’s not enough just to know behavioural science, you have to know how to deliver it in a creative, palatable, and effective way.

For me, this is the biggest shift in thinking. Just because you know the research on behavioural science doesn’t mean you know how to deliver it to a client’s specifications (not to mention within budget too). It’s an entirely different game, and I’m incredibly lucky to work with brilliant designers who have so much to offer.

Why I love working at BAD

To put it plainly, the team at BAD understand that using behavioural science in digital experiences requires a designer skill set alongside the specialized knowledge of behavioural science. At heart, I’m still that researcher who wants to see the data behind the conclusions and shakes my fist when claims aren’t cited. But BAD passes the test. Our Behavioural Insights Team led by Dr. Charlotte Hills and Dr. Elaine Gallagher, and our team of incredible designers makes me confident that we can create a digital learning experience for just about anything our clients throw at us.

Get in touch to find out how we use behavioural science and digital design to deliver engaging, measurable digital learning experiences.

Related stories

Changing behaviour

Time to change… 

Why do we behave the way we do? It can be hard to change our less desirable behaviours when they are highly ingrained and have become habits we perform automatically without thinking.

digital user experience conceptual image
Best Practice

The inaccessibility of dark patterns

Even if you haven’t heard the phrase Dark Patterns, the chances are you’ve almost certainly come across them — both online and in the physical world.