People will go out of their way if motivated to do something. Their intention drives their actions and keeps them focused on completing the task (Ajzen, 1991). A person intent on earning free swag will take time away from other activities and input My Coke Rewards codes into the Coke website every time they drink Coke products. When someone is intent on completing an activity, they are motivated to complete it and focus their attention on it.

Someone determined to complete an activity will also not be as attentive to other stimuli. For example, if people intend to get to Space Mountain at the back of Disneyland Theme Park right when the park opens (motivated to avoid long queue lines), anything placed in their way, such as promotional advertising, will likely be ignored. They could also neglect to notice they forgot to put their 3-year-old daughter back in the stroller on Main Street USA, and now they have to go back to find their child.

Intention is more complicated than rewards programs and helpful behavior. Dan Pink discusses this in his TED talk, The Puzzle of Motivation.

Examples of Intention

  • A man is motivated to get fit before his high school reunion
  • A married couple is dedicated to improving the way they communicate with one another
  • A child in middle school feels forced to complete an algebra assignment
  • An influencer is dedicated to increasing their Instagram followers by 20% in one year

Researching Intention

When designers discover a person’s intent in an experience design scene, they can better understand that person’s goal-directed activity. Researching intention reveals what a person is focused on and the intensity of their desire to complete an activity. With this knowledge, designers can create products, services, and systems that align with intent at the moment within an experience design scene. Sometimes, designers may even find they should create outcomes that reduce intent in cases where a person may be motivated to complete a harmful activity, such as smoking or spending too much time using a smartphone.

Questions to Ask

  • What is this person trying to achieve at this moment?
  • What degree of intent—how potent—is their motivation?
  • Why is this person intent on completing this activity?

Look For

  • The way people talk about an activity or goal
  • What people go out of their way to do

Related Concepts

  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Extrinsic Motivation



Updated: June 18, 2024 10:12 pm
man reaching for a book
Select Your Experience