Matthias Laschke & Marc Hassenzahl: Pleasurable Troublemakers

Keymoment – Initiating Behavior Change through Friendly Friction 
by Dr. Matthias Laschke & Prof. Dr. Marc Hassenzahl

The WHO recommends commuting to work by bike. However, people prefer the car – even for short distances. Keymoment is a key holder mounted next to the front door. It presents bike and car key, side by side, but on separate hooks. The moment of grabbing the keys becomes an explicit choice: bike or car? If the bike key is taken, nothing happens. If the car key is taken, though, Keymoment chucks out the bike key, which drops to the floor. People tend to pick up the key. Through this, Keymoment creates a carefully designed, quite tangible moment of reconsidering routines and choices.

The Keymoment: Change through friendly friction | by Matthias Laschke from Siegen Experience & Interaction on Vimeo.

Keymoment is what we call a “pleasurable troublemaker”. These objects attempt to change people’s unwanted routines. Other than other notions of “sustainable design”, troublemakers neither offer convenient technical solutions nor do they prescribe or patronize. They are materialized “psychology” – situated alternatives to brochures and appeals. To change, these objects create friction, disrupt well-established routines and suggest behavioral alternatives in form of simple plans (“take the bike instead”). But they do so in a light, understanding and sometimes ironic way.

Everybody, who want to change to the better will benefit from Pleasurable Troublemakers. Keymoment, specifically, addresses individual health and environmental issues. In general, troublemakers are paradigm-shifting, since (1) they highlight the local nature of global problems. While commuting by car is a global problem, this problem is only solved locally – by us, each and every morning. (2) They shift responsibility from smart technical solutions to one’s own smart action. (3) They are situated alternatives to appeals and self-help books.

Keymoment is designed for a particular situation – this is the central notion of Pleasurable Troublemakers. However, we also applied our approach to many other fields, such as procrastination, willpower, medication compliance and mindfulness in traffic. Confronting people with their own behavior through choice and viable alternatives (i.e. creating trouble) and being at the same time understanding, naïve or ironic (i.e. pleasurable) is essential to many situations where change is needed. We call it an “Aesthetic of Friction“.

by Robin Neuhaus, supervised Bachelor thesis by Prof. Dr. Marc Hassenzahl & Dr. Matthias Laschke

Order and chaos are a well-known phenomenon and everyone wants to keep things in order. Easier said than done.

People put things inside a drawer and keep them although the do not really need them anymore. They have special bowls, drawers, boxes and other places to hoard things. Concert Tickets, tinkered things from the kids, old birthday cards and all the other little things that do not have a dedicated place. The place where all these things are kept is called a “nest” by many people. Although the things hoarded there are not really needed anymore, they are kept inside the nest because nobody knows whether to keep them or throw them away. People do this because they can’t decide and need more time to take a decision. This happens because often there is a relation to the objects that are inside a nest that goes beyond the material. Concert tickets are not only printed paper. They are a souvenir of a positive experience. Or take the tinkered things from the kids as an example. Who would immediately throw her son’s paper boat away? Instead of throwing it to the trash people highlight things like the boat on a sideboard or the kitchen table.

Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.

Robin analyzed allthese “irrational” and “unproductive” behaviors and designed a corridor cupboard that addresses the process of keeping things and throwing things away. His concept is called „Resolve“. However, this process is not meant to be become efficient or productive. The cupboard materializes different strategies to keep order but also to present and highlight things.

Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.
Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.

Instead of being a place to store more things, Resolve is a place to take the hard decisions whether to keep something or to let it go and to throw it away. The drawer, which is meant to be the new place for the nest has an angle and things stored there slowly move down when the drawer is being opened and closed, until they fall on the round surface slide out. This makes the user decide again over the fate of this object – maybe after having a bit of time to think it over, it is easier to decide now and it can be brought to its place or thrown away. Or it is put back into the drawer and the decision is delayed once again. But it is important that objects inside this nest don’t just disappear, they can be stored there for a while, but they come back to attention as long as there is still a decision to be made.

In order to help this decision, Resolve offers a few options. There is a place to temporarily display a small object under a glass bell on the right side of the cupboard. The object underneath the glass bell can be exchanged easily. It is a fast way to highlight something special without having to keep it highlighted forever.

Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.

But some of the trickiest things to decide over are birthday or Christmas cards – there is enough meaning in them to make it hard to part ways with them but not enough to display them for everyone to see or to make them something really special that is important to keep forever. Resolve offers a compromise – the drawer on the right side contains a kit with scissors, a pencil, a template and glue. With the help of this kit, triangular shapes can be cut out of these cards, tickets or other things and glued on a template to create a mosaic which can be seen through the round window on the top.

Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.
Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.

This means keeping a small piece of object itself which can still trigger a memory and it is not gone completely. But it is reduced to a minimum and at the same time something new and aesthetic is created.

Resolve. © Robin Neuhaus 2017.

Another option might sound too simple, but often we keep things because the trash is far away and it seems too big of an effort to walk across the house just to get rid of a small object. Resolve already offers a small container for things that can be thrown away right there in the moment.


Matthias Laschke ist Post-Doc in der Arbeitsgruppe von Prof. Dr. Marc Hassenzahl. Er studierte Industrial Design an der Universität Duisburg Essen und promovierte an der Folkwang Universität der Künste mit dem Schwerpunkt Human-Computer Interaction. Er beschäftigt sich in seiner Forschung mit der Gestaltung transformationaler Objekte (d.h. ‚Pleasurable Troublemakers’) und persuasiven Technologien innerhalb der Themengebiete Nachhaltigkeit, Prokrastination, Willenskraft, Therapietreue oder Umsicht im Straßenverkehr. Des Weiteren beschäftigt er sich gleichermaßen mit dem Feld des Experience Designs und dem soziokulturellen Einfluss von Technologie im Alltag.

Marc Hassenzahl  ist Professor für “Ubiquitous Design / Erlebnis und Interaktion” am Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik der Universität Siegen. Als promovierter Psychologe verbindet er seinen erfahrungswissenschaftlichen Hintergrund mit der Leidenschaft für das Interaktionsdesign. Im Mittelpunkt steht dabei die Theorie und Praxis des Gestaltens freudvoller, bedeutungsvoller und transformativer Erlebnisse. Marc ist Autor von “Experience Design. Technology for all the right reasons” (MorganClaypool) und anderen Beiträgen an der Nahtstelle von Psychologie, Designforschung, Interaktions- und Industriedesign.