The Joy of Living
How to influence behaviour with creatively optimistic design strategies.
Dr. Dean Ornish, Professor of Medicine at the University of California and founder of the Preventative Medicine Institute in the U.S., in a 1993 study took 33 patients with severely clogged arteries, helped them quit smoking and adopt a strict low-calorie, vegetarian diet.
The patients attended twice-weekly group support sessions led by a psychologist, and took instruction in meditation, relaxation, yoga and aerobic exercise. The program lasted only a year, but after three years researchers of the study revisited the participants and found that 77% of the patients had stuck with their changes. Why did the Ornish program succeed where the conventional scaremongering health approach had failed? Instead of trying to motivate people with the ‘fear of dying’, Ornish reframed the issue into ‘the joy of living’, inspiring people to see that they can actually feel better—not just live longer.
Ornish’s program teaches us that the things we do, and the way we do them, are learned through a mixture of positive and negative stimulations. Behavioural psychologists praise the power of positive reinforcement when driving changes in behaviour, but those behaviours are adopted and sustained faster when they are communicated with creativity.
The social implications of designing behaviour are significant, and we, at Frost*collective, have had a powerful hand in driving behavioural change across many sectors including health, education, government and the environment.
The opportunity to contribute to positive social change was at the forefront of our minds in the work for University of Wollongong’s Early Start program. This $44 million initiative follows the finding that access to education in the years under 10 (especially in the form of play) can help reverse social disadvantage and build positive neurological patterns that contribute to children’s success as adults. The initiative includes a new Early Start facility on the Wollongong campus where research and play come together in a purpose-built ‘Discovery Space’. Here, researchers can observe and interact with children as they engage with interactive, hands-on educational experiences. The facility also serves as a hub for a network of 41 early childhood education centres from disadvantaged areas, so that the University can provide remote access to its research and facilities.
Our challenge was to help this important initiative break the barriers that often prevent these children from getting exposure they need to learning—particularly considering that their parents often come from backgrounds where they haven’t finished school, let alone attended university. For these parents, even the thought of visiting a campus was intimidating. At the same time, we needed to ensure the brand could position Early Start at the forefront of international research and practice, attracting academics, researchers, students, partner organisations and potential benefactors.
“The branding has not just reflected our identity, but has effectively shaped who we are and where we plan to go."
Chief Operating Officer