Mindful Design / Digital Mindfulness Experts

I need to start getting together a list of mindful design experts that I can contact to request interviews. The interviews will need to happen sometime early this summer so it is good to get an early start on this list. I plan to come back and add to this list as I learn of other experts.

 | http://niedderer.org/po.html

  • Professor of Design and Craft at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. She is recognized internationally for her work on mindfulness in design and in research methodology.

Rohan Gunatillake

  • Rohan is the director of Mindfulness Everywhere, a creative studio that combines meditation, technology and design, and is best known for buddhify, the mindfulness app for modern life. Author of the book This is Happening. Designer of Mindfulness Cards. Selected by Wired Magazine and Jane McGonical in 2012 as being one of 50 people who will change the world.

Vincent Horn + Emily Horn

  • Vincent: A computer engineering dropout turned modern monk, Vincent spent his 20s co-founding the ground-breaking Buddhist Geeks while doing a full year of silent meditation practice. Emily: worked in various contemplative education environments including Naropa, Sounds True, and Buddhist Geeks and is now the Co-Founder of Meditate.io.

  • She is an associate professor at RMIT university and award-winning design researcher.

Ann Light https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ann_Light/citations

  • Professor of Design & Creative Technology at the University of Sussex

Jayne Wallace | https://openlab.ncl.ac.uk/people/jayne

  • Previously was Senior Lecturer and then Reader in Design at Northumbria University and is now Reader in Design and Dundee Fellow at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee

 | http://www.thelavinagency.com/speaker-alex-soojung-kim-pang.html

  • “Alex Soojung-Kim Pang studies people, and technology, and the worlds they make. His work explores how our interactions with computers change the way we think about ourselves, and how we value (or devalue) human memory and cognition. Pang is a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a Menlo Park, CA consulting and research firm. He also has two academic appointments: he is a visitor at the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University, and an Associate Fellow at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. His book The Distraction Addiction explains how users can redesign their relationships with technologies to help them be calmer and sharper…”

David Levy

  • Professor in the Information School (iSchool) at the University of Washington. Author of book on mindful tech. Investigates the challenge of achieving contemplative balance–how as individuals and as a society we might live healthy, reflective, and productive life while participating in an accelerating, information-saturated culture.

Chris Dancy

  • “The Most Connected Man on Earth.” For 25 years, Dancy has served in leadership within the technology and healthcare industries, specializing in the intersection of the two. Chris entered the public dialog concerning digital health as the media started to focus on wearable technology. He earned his moniker by utilizing up to 700 sensors, devices, applications, and services to track, analyze, and optimize his life–from his calorie intake to his spiritual well-being. This quantification enables him to see the connections of otherwise invisible data, resulting in dramatic upgrades to his health, productivity, and quality of life.

Rafaël Rozendaal

  • A visual artist who uses the internet as his canvas. His websites attract a large audience of over 40 million unique visits per year. His artistic practice consists of websites, installations, lenticulars, lectures and haiku. His work is very sensory-based using color, shape and sound.
  • http://www.almostcalm.com/
  • http://openthiswindow.com/

Ivy Mahsciao

  • Creative Director at Wunderman in NY “…a plot thickener and a possibility junkie, currently roaming the disruptive realms of futurism” “heavily focused on bridging the gap between digital experiences and offline/person-to-person interactions — The dimensionality and mind-to-mind connections that are often missing in online, virtual experiences, are what she’s observed as a missing component for an ontologically coherent world.”
  • Micromoments

Neema Moraveji

  • Director of Standord University’s Calming Technology Lab. Neema is an expert on the research and design of technologies that promote healthy and high-performing states of mind and he also teaches the Designing Calm course at Stanford Design School.

Linda Stone

Jocelyn Brewer

  • Registered psychologist based in Sydney, Australia with expertise in digital technology and it’s impact on behavior, society and learning. The creator of Digital Nutrition, a framework for developing and maintaining healthy a relationship with your technological world.

Tristan Harris

  • Works on behavior and ethics for Google. His goal is “to develop a framework to help product designers align their products and services with the way Users want to live their lives, while simultaneously supporting their overall well-being and attention.”
  • http://timewellspent.io/
  • TED Talk

Stuart English

Fernando Rojas

Gloria Mark

Relevant Research

I recently discovered a few keyword phrases that have opened up new avenues of research I was unfamiliar with: digital mindfulness, positive technology, positive computing, contemplative computing, human-computer interaction (HCI), and cyberpsychology. Other keyword phrases include: techno-spirituality, slow design. This morning, I managed to discover a plethora of new articles that may shine new light on my direction. As I read through them, I plan to post my takeaways here.

Contemplative Computing, A. Pang, 2011, Microsoft Research Cambridge

  • Many similarities to my research! Pang recognizes that the very phrase “contemplative computing” sounds “oxymoronic” in that technology tends to interrupt and disperse our attention across various activities. Current solutions include “distraction-free” software, personal management software, and digital detoxes. Pang believes that technology can be created in a way that engages rather than distracts. Technology “eroded our individual and collective intelligence, our memories, and our capacity for sustained and deep thought.” He creates a series of design principles for users and designers.
  • “…contemplative computing cannot be a single form of interaction between user and technology, nor can it be triggered by a particular set of features. The best designers can do is invite users to be contemplative, and to support their efforts to work more thoughtfully or mindfully” (pp. 16–17).
  • “Thoughtful interaction design can help users arrive at calm through engagement, reach contemplation through self-experimentation, and find balance by respecting the fluid tension that exists between users, technologies, and the world. It recognizes that the main challenge is not to create technologies that possess particular properties, but to support users’ exploration and the development of their skills. This requires recognizing that contemplation is hard work, and most of that hard work must be done by users: designers can facilitate the process, but ultimately contemplative computing is practiced by users” (p. 17).
  • “The Net seizes our attention only to scatter it.” [Carr 2010]
  • Pang’s Principles:
    • Build awareness through DIY and self-experimentation—invite tinkering

    • Recognize that we are cyborgs, and humans

    • Create rewarding challenges

    • Support mind-wandering

    • Treat flow as a means, not an end

Making Wellbeing: A Process of User-Centered Design, Marshall, Thieme, Wallace, Vines, Wood & Balaam, 2014

  • Psychology recognizes two related approaches to wellbeing: hedonic and eudemonic. The hedonic approach recognizes wellbeing as the “presence of positive affect and the absence of negative affect” (Diener et al., 2006). Pleasure = happiness. The eudemonic approach recognizes wellbeing as a result of a life of “meaning and purpose.” Self-determination theory (SDT) explains how we might achieve eudemonic wellbeing through control over one’s life, competence, and meaningful personal relationships.

Aesthetics and User-Centered Design, Wright, Wallace, & McCarthy, 2008

  • A framework for aesthetic of interaction and suggested sensibilities for designing aesthetic interaction.

Positive technology: using interactive technologies to promote positive functioning, Giuseppe Riva, 2012

  • Positive technology: “the scientific and applied approach to the use of technology for improving the quality of our personal experience through its structuring, augmentation, and/or replacement—as a way of framing a suitable object of study in the field of cyberpsychology and human–computer interaction.”
  • Cyberpsychology: “…to create technologies that contribute to enhancement of happiness and psychological well-being” (Amichai-Hamburger Y., 2009).
  • I am researching how technology can be used to affect engagement/actualization to promote positive functioning.
  • Positive computing: “the study and development of information and communication technology that is consciously designed to support people’s psychological flourishing in a way that honors individuals’ and communities’ different ideas about the good life’’ (Sander, 2011).

Read/watch later:


Mindfulness enhances well-being. Design can be used to promote mindfulness and ultimately well-being. How can I study this? Specifically, how can mindful design principles be used to enhance psychological well-being? (needs rephrased)

“The World Health Organization [12] defines positive mental health or wellbeing as a state ‘which allows individuals to realize their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their community'” (Designing Wellbeing, 2012).

Workshops: In 2012, there was a 2-day workshop in the UK to explore the connection between interaction design and well-being. In 2012, there was also the CHI 2012 workshop on “Interaction Design and Emotional Wellbeing.”

Tools to measure well-being: the Affect Balance scale, PANAS, Affectometer, or the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Ryff’s Scales of Psychological Well-Being (SPWB), the Social Well-Being Scale

Tools to measure mindfulness: Will add these in soon.

Mindful Design

I am attaching here my recent paper on mindful design, as well as the concept map. Ideally, this paper will be the basis for my thesis work.




My Primary Question:
How can mindful design be used as a catalyst to generate mindfulness and promote conscious decision-making?

The premise of this focus is that design can cultivate individual awareness, ultimately improving personal experience. When we are mindless to the world around us (on auto-pilot) it affects how we make choices. Rather than creating awareness for the purpose of selling a product or forcing a behavior, mindful design shifts the locus of control to the viewer. Individuals can recognize how they are choosing to live their lives, as well as the ripple effect of their choices. Some of the methods I have discovered that designers can implement include: novelty, choice, interactivity, meaning, companions.


Moving Forward:

While this topic is so incredibly fascinating to me, I am unsure how to form this into a thesis—or if it is specific enough yet. Questions I have:

  • How would I research this topic further? Would I create an artifact to generate mindfulness or research already existing designs within our culture?
  • How would the results be measured? Would I need to use a mindfulness scale (I came across one in my research)?
  • How would I know if individuals ultimately changed or became aware of their choices?
  • Is there anyway to relate this topic to design education? While this was my initial intention, I feel like doing so might be forcing a connection and will not ultimately answer my main questions.
  • Could I potentially create a framework for designers interested in moving towards a more mindful form of design?
  • Or, would it be better to generate some form of mindful design and measure the impact?

The “How”

I am still trying to clarify how I can study mindfulness and communication design together. My question remains: How can communication design be used as a tool to facilitate well-being through mindfulness? Much too broad—simply because the how is still the unknown variable. This week I seek clarity regarding the how so I can move forward.

While most of my research up to this point has been focused on mindful graphic design, I find myself wondering what other design research is focused specifically on promoting well-being. Perhaps if I explore how others have studied design+well-being, I might discover a framework/method to inspire my own research?

Social Cognitive Theory

A conceptual framework to understand the role mass media plays in society. Studies how symbolic communication influences human thought, affect and action. AGENTIC: 1) Social cognition theory perspective that views people as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating, not just as reactive organisms shaped by environmental forces or driven by inner impulses. 2) The capacity for human beings to make choices in the world (Bandura).

The four major subfunctions governing observational learning and the influential factors operating within each subfunction.

The four major subfunctions governing observational learning and the influential factors operating within each subfunction.

  • Attentional—Determines what is selectively observed.
  • Retention—People cannot be much influenced by observed events if they do not symbolically code and remember them.
  • Production—How cognition is translated into action.
  • Motivational—People do not perform everything they learn. Motivation plays a role in whether or not the behavior will take form.

Insight: “People are reluctant to adopt new practices that involve cost and risks until they see the advantages that have been gained by early adopters (Bandura).” How does this apply to my research? While practicing the behavior of mindfulness has little risk, it has the cost of time. People will want to see the advantages that have been gained by others.

Source: Bandura, Albert. “Social cognitive theory of mass communication.” Media psychology 3.3 (2001): 265-299. http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura2001.pdf

Designing for Clarity

Insight: Another idea I came across today was in reference to what makes Google so successful. When we say less is more—we do not necessarily need to make something simple—we just need to remove distraction/obstacles from the desired goal. Less noise… be it fewer colors, typefaces, complexity, etc. This does not always mean minimalism. It means clarity. How does this apply to my research? I think researching mindful design will definitely revolve around a removal of distraction, and a clarity of focus.
Sources: http://www.markboulton.co.uk/journal/when-less-is-more






Related Research

Mindful Design as a Driver for Social Behaviour Change, Dr Kristina Niedderer: http://niedderer.org/1961-1b.pdf

  • design for behavior change
  • social innovation by design
    • “new solutions (products, services, models, markets, processes etc.) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively than existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationships and better use of assets and resources. In other words, social innovations are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.”—European Union [42, 43]
    • “Mindful design in contrast is assumed to be able to operate without such a supportive context, and instead to work on the intersection of coercive and persuasive design, being strong and explicit, but giving the user the choice of how to act, thus requiring the user to take responsibility. A good example of this is the traffic junction in the Netherlands, where the increasing number of signs did not reduce the rate of accidents, but taking away all signs did improve the situation (ibid, p. 10-11). In contrast to Tromp’s interpretation, the argument here is that the improvement is achieved because people have to actively think about their environment and how to navigate it, putting the responsibility on them rather than on the traffic management system. The explicit nature of this design intervention then is not based on the forceful nature of any addition, but on the disruptive nature of the omission, which causes conscious awareness and reflection.”
    • “Mindful design facilitates a process of conscious decision making by creating awareness of one’s own behaviour and shifting the focus from an external to an internal locus of control through mindful reflection as explained in the example of the traffic junction above.”
    • “…mindful design seeks to induce reflection of the individual on their inner state/emotions, their inter/actions and how these reflect personal and social beliefs, to open them to scrutiny through the disruption of the physical or symbolic function of an object used in the context in question.”


What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is intentional, nonjudgmental engagement. Complete presence with life. Rather than getting lost in our thoughts about what is happening, we fully engage with the moment. Judgment is suspended. Awareness is heightened. It is a basic, innate human ability that can be cultivated.

Why study mindfulness + design? 2/3 of Americans say they need help for stress. Chronic stress becomes a barrier to overall well-being.

My “end goal”? I am interested in using design to increase overall well-being, by means of cultivating mindfulness. By reducing cognitive, emotional and physiological stress, one might experience increased health, happiness, clarity and productivity. While this is very broad still, this is the general direction I am moving in.

What are the benefits of mindfulness? Reduce “chronic” stress, enhanced task performance, gain clarity of thought, self-awareness, increased empathy, overall well-being. The brain was discovered to have neuroplasticity. Which means that “what you do, think and pay attention to, changes the structure and functions of the brain… Quality of perception changes… We see with more clarity… Sharpens/calms the mind… The latest research suggests it takes 100 minutes for you begin to have a measurable effect”—Chade-Meng Tan

How can we cultivate mindfulness? We must pay attention to our intention. Some known practices include breathework, meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, centering prayer, etc. However, mindfulness can be cultivated moment-by-moment by simply bringing our awareness to what is. It is the quality of our attention.


Mindful Design

Science has been doing a lot of research in the area of mindfulness and the effect it has on the brain/mindset. I am very curious the role mindfulness has with design.

Simply put, mindfulness is full engagement.

Questions I have: 

  • How does design in the environment affect our ability to be mindful?
  • How might design impact design education? Could mindfulness increase capacity for innovation?
  • Can design improve people’s ability to be mindful in their day-to-day life?
  • If students were to integrate mindfulness into their creative process, how would the results be impacted?
  • Can design be used to promote mindfulness on a larger scale?
  • Are there any initiatives that encourage mindful (or related) design?
  • What frameworks might relate to creating mindful design solutions?
    • HCD: Human Centered Design—Generates solutions for a need in low-income communities. Three phases: Hear, Create and Deliver. How to talk to research participants, gain empathy and capture stories that will give context.
  • What are some examples of existing mindful design?

Research I found pertaining to mindfulness + design:

Mindful Technology

Topic Refinement

This week I am reading Daniel Echeverri and Sarah Rutherford‘s (pdf) theses to gain some clarity on the direction I am moving in. I am very much interested in how design creates meaning (our understanding of reality), but with the topic begin so broad/abstract, I am seeking an opportunity to join in the current conversation.

I also began reading The Shape of Design (pdf), by Frank Chimero.

Thoughts on Rutherford:

  •  I need to clarify a theory that I will ultimately test. In Sarah’s case, she wanted to test whether design attracts customers because it affirms some aspect of the customer’s self-concept.
  • Consumer behavior. She attempted to understand mental models in regards to how people make choices based on design.
  • Self-concept is a very interesting topic. I wish that I was more interested in consumerism. It would certainly be more convenient, considering the field I work in. Frankly, my top priority is not helping companies sell things. My top priority is helping people live better, more meaningful lives. I believe design has power in that it communicates to the world how others perceive “the good life.”
  • Why do people choose products in line with their self image? Self image is constantly shifting. It is who we perceive ourselves to be. We are naturally drawn to things that are similar to ourselves, or who we wish to be.
  • This preference is not innate, but instead is built from exposure. The patterns and objects learned through visual processing form in an individual’s mind the prototypical representatives of particular categories (Nedungadi, 1985).” “The pattern testing that an individual uses to identify desirable things is built upon what that individual has experienced, the identification of common categories, the categories he has then formed based on emotion and the desire to engage with or avoid a given target.
    If preference is built in exposure, then design absolutely plays a role in what people ultimately want. Does design essentially tell people what to want?

Thesis Topic Refinement on “Meaning”:

  • Mindfulness + Design. The role of mindfulness in the design process.
  • The Good Life—Every single thing we design is similar to a “vote” regarding what we think is important, and communicates to the world how we can get the most out of life. People naturally look to others for answers. Simply, we all move towards things that make us feel better, and away from things that make us feel bad. In a lot of ways, design is a tool to enhance experiences (make life feel better).
  • Good/Better/Best—We all want to live better lives, but how do we know what is ultimately better? When do we choose something that is just “good” versus the “best” option? Do we all want the “best” option—yet there are things that stop us (such as price, self-worth, accessibility, etc.)? My theory is that we all ultimately want the “best”—as we see it to be.
  • Happiness—There are a lot of happiness studies being done. I actually read the book Stumbling on Happiness a few years back and it was pretty interesting. How does design mimic/support/create the notion of happiness?
  • How Design Creates Meaning in Culture (how it shapes culture)— a call for submissions for a conference that deals with this very topic: http://medeamalmo.tumblr.com/post/100149698783/cfp-the-virtuous-circle-design-culture-and “The conference aims to investigate how design comes out of the interaction between a practice (which seeks to change the state of things) and a culture (which makes sense of this change). The way this happens evolves with time: practices and cultures evolve and so do the ways they interact; the attention that is paid at different moments to one or other of these interacting polarities also evolves. In the current period of turbulent transformation of society and the economy, it is important to go back and reflect on the cultural dimension of design, its capacity to produce not only solutions but also meanings, and its relations with pragmatic aspects.”

Meaningful Experience Design

Meaningful Experience Design

Most designs today focus on creating tangible experiences: shopping for a product, navigating through a place, delivering information, etc. Design tells people both what is important and how to move through an experience. Good design seeks to improve (simplify, make sense of, enhance) that experience. Yet, how is design used to improve human experiences that are not tangible—empathy, emotion, connection, self-awareness, inspiration, etc.?

15 Core Meanings: accomplishment, beauty, creation, community, duty, enlightenment, freedom, harmony, justice, oneness, redemption, security, truth, validation, wonder.

Meaning: transcends values, is personal, more valuable than price and performance,  lasts longer than emotions, the deepest connection you can make with customer/user/audience. How does design evoke meaning for the individual? 

What is meaning?
Meaning is a distinct level of cognitive significance that represents how people understand the world around them–literally, the reality they construct in their minds that explains the world they experience. Meaning is the deepest level of this understanding and is distinct from ValuesEmotions, and functional or financial benefits:

    • Meaning (our sense of reality)
    • Values (our sense of identity)
    • Emotions
    • Value (our sense of what something is “worth,” financial benefits)
    • Features (functional benefits)