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Design and Food Practices: Encouraging Sustainable Food Choices through Persuasive Design

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posted on 14.07.2022, 17:40 authored by Xuehui Zhang

Human food production and consumption is a leading cause that contributes to climate change. Although systematic transformations are imperative to tackle sustainable issues, individual food-related behaviors can be significant drivers for larger systematic changes. However, the complexity of individual food choices proposes challenges for sustainable dietary transitions due to cultural and market forces, high barriers to nutritional knowledge, and a variety of motivations behind a single food choice. 

The thesis investigated how persuasive design might support a shift toward more sustainable food practices for individuals with different dietary motivations. Through the literature and artifact review, I studied how persuasive design can implicitly change food-related behaviors with the psychological and social theories behind it, and identified the opportunities, challenges, and gaps in current food systems and existing tools. I conducted contextual inquiries, diary studies, and generative activities with participants to better understand their behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes in a variety of scenarios throughout their food experiences. As a result, I explored potential concepts and designed an alternative food experience to demonstrate how people may learn climate footprint in food through social interactions. In conclusion, persuasive messages for food sustainability can be more effective if the design leverages multiple persuasian techniques and encourages active participation from users.




Degree Type

Master's Thesis



Degree Name

  • Master of Design (MDes)


Ashley Deal Raelynn O’Leary

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