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Month / March 2015

The Psychology of Biscuits

On the way into work last week I picked up a pack of caramel wafers to put on the table at a meeting. I ended up in three meetings that week and nobody touched a single biscuit. If you put a plate of bourbons or shortbread out then everyone helps themselves, and so I got thinking… 

Are people more likely to take food if it’s open and thus perishable? Do we see the open biscuits and figure they’re going to waste if we don’t eat them so we’d better just have one? If so, maybe we could use the same psychology to help our colleagues and clients to eat more fruit or drink more water.

We could prepare and plate up some perishable-looking food (diced melon, sliced apple, pineapple chunks, celery sticks, almonds) and our clients would be too kind to let it go to waste and unconsciously munch their way to their five a day. Another good example is table water – in a restaurant the jug of water at the table is almost always emptied as we know if we don’t drink it then it’s only going to end up poured down the drain. Whereas if there was a sealed bottle of water for everyone at the table I’d bet half of them wouldn’t even get opened.

Of course it might just be that nobody else likes caramel wafers (but that would be madness).


Dave King

#2 Bad Language

Bad language is everywhere. Confusing jargon and strange phrases have come to be expected in board rooms and council offices across the country. A few years ago the Local Government Association had to ban 200 words and phrases to stop themselves from having ‘coterminous stakeholder engagement’ rather than just talking to people. 

It’s not just the council that struggle to find the right words. Last year the Plain English Campaign slated Apple for their nonsense after Jonathan Ive claimed the new iWatch’s “simple leather classic buckle references traditional watch vocabulary”. 

This might seem funny but there actually is a problem here. The more jargon we use, the fewer people can understand us.

At StudioLR we’ve been doing a lot of work in hospitals over the last couple of years and the language used has often bothered us. We’ve seen Outpatients or Day Cases commonly referred to as Ambulatory Care – a term that was completely meaningless to me (except perhaps a mistaken connection to ambulances). And we’re not being over-sensitive – an NHS wayfinding audit found that 30% of people didn’t understand words as common as physiotherapy. Some of the words we don’t understand and some of them are just too similar…

Radiotherapy or Radiology
Paediatrics or Podiatry
Physiology or Physiotherapy
Orthopaedics or Orthodontics
Orthodontics or GUM clinic?!

Obviously health professionals use the long words (and understand them) but do we really need to see them written on signs when we’re already stressed out? They become even less relevant in children’s hospitals. Why can’t we be signposted to “Broken Bones” or “Sore Tummies”? Being in hospital is never easy so we shouldn’t make it even more difficult by communicating in another language.


Dave King

Designerati (top 100 people in UK Design)


We’re delighted that Lucy has been nominated (again) in The Drum’s ‘UK top design talent’, which identifies the top 100 individuals and celebrates in The Drum’s ‘Designerati’ publication.

Last year’s winner was Dan Germain from Innocent with Sir Jonathan Ive (Apple) and Sir Paul Smith in the Top 10.