Announcing Action Design DC

On Monday, I had the joy of sitting down with an amazing group of entrepreneurs, researchers, product designers and others to launch a new group:  Action Design DC.  Action Design is about applying lessons for behavioral economics and psychology to product development – especially to help people take action on something they’ve wanted to do, but haven’t been successful at.      

Here’s a quick description of Action Design that I wrote for our Meetup

Action Design is the art and science of designing products that help people take action in their lives.

It entails:

    1. Designing the action itself so that it’s easy to take
    2. Structuring the environment to encourage the action, and
    3. Preparing the person to take the action, once and in the future.

Action Design draws heavily upon:

    • Persuasive Design, to develop usable, pleasing products that persuade people to engage and take action
    • Behavioral Economics and Psychology, to understand the cognitive mechanisms that hinder action
    • Data Science, to rigorously study the product’s true impact on individual action, identify behavioral bottlenecks, and display the results in a digestible, actionable manner.

The group is a way for the community (people building and designing  products that encourage users to take action) to learn from each other, and build up a shared expertise on how to be most effective.   

Over the last few years at HelloWallet, I’ve loved learning from the research literature and working with cool economists and psychologists.   I’ve been noodling on the idea for a while about formalizing the lessons we’ve learned at HelloWallet on building action-effective products; I’ve also been trying to integrate some of that into my previous blog posts on how my family and I use these concepts in our daily lives.  

I’ve found that there’s just a tremendous body of research out there that can be applied to product development.   From what I’ve seen though, it usually isn’t.   There’s some great work already by BJ Fogg on Persuasive Design and Behavior Change, and Nir Eyal, Michael Kim and others on how to build habits (including Michael’s HabitDesign group in SF, NYC and Boston).  But, there’s even  more to build upon and test when it comes to product development.

After talking with other like-minded folks in the DC area, we’ve found that there’s a lot of activity on these types of products here in DC (in the political space, NGO world, finance, health, etc.), but we rarely talk with each other and compare notes.  So, Justin Thorp, Katherine Kendall and I co-founded Action Design DC.    We kept the initial meeting intentionally low-profile, to see if there was enough interest in the community before doing something larger.   We were very encouraged by what we saw, and the connections people were already making across disciplines.  

 So, more to come in the future.  In the meantime, please help spread the word about the group – especially to Interaction Designers, Product Managers, Data Analysts, and Behavioral Social Scientists!

  • For people in the DC area, you can sign-up for the in-person events at
  • We’ve also just setup an online presence as a Facebook Group, so people can share news articles, relevant of research, and find other people to help out on your own  projects.    It’s right here.