Best Way to Design an Energy Saving Poster

I am assuming everyone must have seen one of many designs of energy saving poster, and I wonder, how many of us actually took action to reduce our environmental impact?

The poster below is just something that I found quickly from the Internet. It looks interesting isn’t? With lots of pictures and lots of information, but is the message strong enough?


For me, too much wording, and perhaps, it is very difficult to translate what benefit I will actually gain by taking a “green” action. Most of the energy saving posters fail to do their job because the message is not strong enough. Why, because most of us does not understand what benefit  we will have by turing a light off, or wash our cloths at 30 degree. The reason that I say this is because by telling people how much  CO2 you will produce lesser, or in kWh, it is very difficult to understand in “human” terms.

Therefore, my proposing improvement is to translate the message into something that is more clearly, and by looking at it, people will instantly understand the benefits of certain action.

The design that I have is a sticker that goes on the light switch, so people will see this message clearly when they are reaching for the switch. Just like below:

Encouraging Switch off Light Poster


Thumbs up:

As most people do things depending on what the society says, so it is key to use social norm to nudge people to adopt certain behaviour, therefore the main message that we need to bring out is- saving energy is socially approved.

The reason that I use a thumb up picture because it is a symbol for good behaviour, it tells people that ‘well done for switching the light off’. This is known as injunctive norm, which refers to a perception of what is culturally approved. At the same time, it also represents the switching off action, and this will encourage people to take this action. Therefore you may want to include an image that will encourage people to take certain action.

Green Colour:

The reason that I suggest using green colour because it has a message of ‘green initiative’, as most environmental campaign uses green colour, so the message will stand out more clearly.

Also, green has a cultural meaning of ‘go for it’, just like traffic lights, because we barely see any stop sign using green colour, so people automatically accept green colour as a representation of good behaviour.


Save £30:

Providing feedback is important to encourage good behaviour, as if your teacher did not grade your paper, you would be wondering about the quality of your work, and not sure about whether to continue or not.

Because turning a light off has no meaning to people, and no one can measure how good it is to the environment, even translate it into CO2 emission, it still means nothing, so the beneficial message should be translated into something that everyone can understand easily, and nominal value is a very clear message. As by looking at the design above, you will automatically know turning this light off is good for you, and by how much, which will generate a very strong incentive for people to take this action.

The £30 figure is estimated using UK Power website:

1 hour:

The reason that I encourage people to turn their light off for just one hour because to nudge people to adopt new behaviour, we need to start with some easy task, and one hour does not seem to be a lot, since it is pretty much the amount of time when we remember to switch our light off when we are not in the room.

I hope this post can help you understands how to improve designing an energy saving poster, if you think my design is useful, feel free to use it, I won’t sue you for copyright 😛



Persuasion and Social Proof

Sometimes what we think is largely influenced by our society. If we look across different culture, our behaviour varies hugely.

If you watch the video, you will notice how social proof has influenced people’s behaviour. As the reporter said, “one in five women in Korea undergo plastic surgery”. Living in a society like this, you will be easily persuaded into adopting a very different mindset. Just watch the video at the end, the male reporter even convinced that after looking at all those pictures, he was comfortable into showing a picture of his own. Isn’t it amazing by looking at the behaviour of a social group can eventually altering our behaviour?

Our society evolves greatly throughout history, from hunter-gather into a nation, and into a globalising system. When we look into behavioural and evolutionary theory, society that cooperates will evenly outsize the smaller one, as the smaller social group will merge into the larger one, since acting as a group is always stronger than acting individually.

Therefore, if we want to persuade a social group into adopting certain behaviour, the tactic should be first spilt the social group into 2 parts: one group of where people can be easily influenced, and another group that does the opposite. One major difference between these 2 groups will be intelligence, as smarter people tend to have a mind that constantly finding reasons to reject new ideas, and have a more active reflective system. In order to make the ‘smarter’ group of people to adopt such behaviour, it is key to first attack the smaller group, and to expand from there, turning up the voice of the minority. As the influenced group grows larger and larger, the minority will becomes a majority, creating a social proof, feeding more information to other group of people as what is socially proven, hence telling them to do what the society is doing. This will be very similar to the creation of a revolution, where it started off as one person as a leader, and many more starting to follow, eventually outgrows into the whole nation.


Apple All-Day Battery Psychological Illusion

Apple Inc. is possibly one of the best companies in marketing. To some extend I believe its effectiveness could generate an illusion on its consumers, causing a Halo Effect (E. Thorndike) around its product.

Why am I saying this? Look at the picture below or watch Apple’s WWDC keynote on the new Macbook Air:

Apple Keynote (2)      Apple Keynote (1)

I am wondering how many people actually spot the illusion in this presentation? Yes, it’s the all-day battery life! The Macbook Air 13-inch delivers only 12 hours battery life, and we get 24 hours in a day, so how could Philip Schiller (Senior VP, Apple), claim this statement successfully, and even get the whole audience to cheer for him?

Just to be clear, I am writing here not because I am trying to turn this into a joke, (I myself had bought this version of Macbook Air, as you can see, I love this product as well!), but there is just something fascinating about our mind that worth exploring around this matter.

At WWDC, all those audiences were developer, working for big companies, adults etc., so a fully grown up person, how did no one in the crowd spotted this error, instead they embraced this idea. Aren’t we all know we have 24 hours a day?

I have to be honest, I did fall into this illusion as I first saw the Macbook keynote, at that moment, I was like, “wow, all-day battery? That’s amazing!” And yet, I did not spot this error immediately.

So why? The simplest explanation is that we spend most of our day sleeping, and typically 12 hours is our maximum working hour. However, if the answer is this simple, there will be no point talking about it right?

Therefore, here are some real reasons that I could think of:

System 2 Thinking is lazy

In Daniel Kahneman’s book (Thinking Fast and Slow) explained that our brain has 2 systems, automatic and reflective system. Our automatic system is quick and it does things automatically, known as System 1, like walking, breathing, driving etc., all these events are controlled by our system 1 thinking, as they can be done without thinking. And our reflective system, i.e. system 2 is slow; it requires effort and concentration, like mathematical calculation. Our brain does not engage with our system 2 in most of our daily life, and when our system 2 is not functioning, then it is very likely that we could not detect the error in a statement.

For example: “A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” In this experiment, many participants answered $0.10, but the correct answer is $0.05. So why do we make an error like this? Well, one explanation is that most of us just divides the sum into 2 parts, larger sum and smaller sum, without using our reflective system to check the calculation.

This is exactly what happened here. When Philip Schiller mentioned about the all-day battery statement before showing us the new Macbook Air’s battery life, at this point, we automatically take this statement as true, believing the new Macbook is going to have an all-day battery life. Once we believe something is true, we will then be very less likely to revise the further statement. Therefore, even when we saw the new Macbook Air could have up to 12 hours of battery life, we would fail to realise the contradiction within that statement.

Commitment and Consistency

When people committee to an action, they will live up to it, no matter right or wrong. For example, don’t you realise when you are writing an essay, your first draft is very likely to be your final draft? As when you were told to delete some sentences, you would find it hard to do so? As Robert Cialdini noticed, when people are agree to an action, they will continue to honour that statement.  So how is this related to this situation?

At the beginning, Tim Cook, Apple CEO mentioned, all the tickets to the WWDC sold out in 71 seconds, so you have to be a real ‘die hard’ Apple’s fan to buy this ticket so quickly. When a person can show this kind of commitment to a brand or company, how likely is it for them to question about the accuracy or quality of their product?

Authority and Social Proof

Authority is very effective form of persuasion. As in Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment (1961), it illustrated that an experimenter acting as an authority figure could pressure the participant to harm another human being. And in this situation, Philip Schiller is senior vice-president at Apple, so with a person this powerful, who would stand up and tell him, that he made an error in his statement? Hence most people just listen to his presentation without even thinking about what is right and wrong. On top of that, with over a thousand people not stating the error, how likely are you going to put your hand up and say, ‘excuse me….’?

In conclusion, with all these factors in place, of course Philip Schiller can persuade us that 12 hours equals all-day, therefore, the key about persuasion here is that first people are lazy, and with people’s commitment to the Apple’s brand and having an authority figure to deliver this speech, of course many people will be easily influenced.