CATEGORY: Behavior Design, UX

TOOLKITS: Observation, Fabrication


ROLE: Design, Design Research, Fabrication


The Kitchen Project was a behavioral nudge designed to reduce the number of dirty dishes left in the sink in the ITP kitchen. Observational research revealed that dirty dishes were left in the sink when both dishwashers were full. This project introduced new signage on the kitchen’s dishwashers. The new signs suggested that students unload the dishwasher, rather than simply saying that the dishes were ‘clean’. After the new signs were introduced the dishwashers were unloaded more frequently and fewer dirty dishes were left in the kitchen sink.

Initial Observation

Identifying the pain point in this project was not difficult, many students complained loudly and often about the mess left in the kitchen. I started by observing the kitchen for a day. I found that students and faculty would put their dirty dishes in a dishwasher when there was room, and would even run the dishwasher when it was full. But, no one would empty the dishwasher after it finished. That meant that there was nowhere to put dirty dishes quickly. After lunch, there were always a large group of students who all needed to deal with their dishes all at the same time before their 3pm classes started. Time was tight before classes started, so everyone just put their dishes in the sink and on the counter. The full dishwasher was the source of the messy kitchen.

Solutions Brainstorming

I brainstormed several ways to encourage folks to empty the dishwasher. I considered updating or creating new signage to remind people to unload the clean dishes. I also created a solution that honored those that did empty the dishwasher and one that tracked how many times the dishwasher was unloaded in a day. I decided to implement a simple update in signage. There were three signs on the dishwasher that let people know what stage of washing it was in, empty, washing, or clean. These signs all described the state of the dishwasher, but should have been directed at the people using it.

Fabrication and Installation

Fabricating the new sign was easy. I created the sign from a magnetic sheet, some vinyl, and stick on letters. I chose a black and yellow color scheme so the sign would stand out.

Final Observation

I installed the new sign and observed the kitchen again. The dishwasher was unloaded at 2pm and no dirty dishes were left out. The dishwasher sign was a success for the length of the project.

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