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Behavioural data refers to data that represents the behaviour of individuals and groups of individuals. Such information is commonly used in the retail and web industry to analyse consumer behaviours and optimise businesses. In addition, the Internet of Things (IoT) captures behavioural data in the physical world. This data maps the dynamic behaviour of humans and objects in time and space. The term dynamic refers to asynchronous updates over time. In contrast, human data traditionally used in Design focuses on static information such as ergonomic or demographic data and qualitative data. Thus, the dynamic characteristic of behavioural data makes it novel in Design.

On the one hand, the foundation of Human-Centred Design lies in democratic processes and a strong focus on user needs. However, digitalisation makes data a central part of this process. Consequently, it creates ethical concerns, value tensions and frictions between the design solution and the use of data. On the other hand, designers cannot ignore the power of behavioural data to inform, drive and evaluate their Design. But doing so ethically and meaningfully requires close collaboration with (potential) users. As experts of their data, users provide critical insights on the problems and solutions at hand.

Behavioural data creates an abundance of perspectives. Thus, it has much more to offer to Participatory Design than data science. At the Data-Centric Design Lab, we develop methods and tools that support designers to use behavioural data as a catalyser of collaboration and ethical practices to address societal challenges.

While data invades every domain, its place in Design remains a technology push. Data-Driven Design is a direct application of data science and analytics to design. However, only limited methods, mainly under the umbrella of Data-Enabled Design, have reached the core of Human-Centred Design.

At the Data-Centric Design Lab, we look at the untapped opportunities to strengthen HCD processes with ethical and collaborative data activities. How can the HCD community leverage behavioural data to enhance design processes? We formulate six challenges as the ‘verbs’ of Participatory Design with Data.

  • Open – Behavioural data is abundant and intimate, drawing detailed pictures of human activities. However, ‘personal’ leads to anonymisation, conflicting with rich and contextualised material used in Design. How to open stakeholder relationships with transparent aims and approaches, invite participation through data and domain expertise?
  • Connect – There is a growing need to design remotely and at scale. In this context, data consumption as we know it from data science is limited and asynchronous. How can live behavioural data fuel novel approaches to help designers immerse themselves and empathise?
  • Converse – the design field only scratched the surface of involving users in participatory data analysis. Touching on Human-Data Interaction, how can designers actively engage users to inform Design through behavioural data?
  • Project – Data science has its place in Participatory Design to project possible futures to discuss with users. How can designers leverage state-of-the-art data algorithms as part of their ideation process to sketch viable alternatives as conversation material?
  • Realise – Live data prototypes become a vital tool to help probe a design context or demonstrate feasibility, desirability, and viability. However, technical knowledge and skill requirements are high along the time and money to involve. How can open, collaborative approaches can empower all designers to leverage domain-specific prototyping platforms?
  • Nurture – Data analytics powers Data-Driven Design in providing detailed insights on how users interact with products, services, and systems. It is an opaque and hidden mechanism for users. There is a research avenue around nurturing user relationships as part of new models such as open sharing and circular economies. How can designers collaborate with users through behavioural data in transparent re-design processes?


These verbs are the compass for all education and research conducted in the lab.

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Delft Design Labs

Faculty of Industrial Design

Landbergstraat 15

2628 CE Delft

The Netherlands