Interview: How can design help us achieve a sustainable society?

Cecilia Katzeff is Interactive Institute’s Research Director of Energy Design.

Her research focuses on the user experience and the role of IT design, as well as behavioral change related to the use of energy in contexts such as the household, the workplace and sustainable urban areas. Cecilia was recently appointed adjunct professor of sustainable interaction design at KTH, which will strengthen the cooperation between Interactive Institute Swedish ICT and KTH.

What is your area of expertise?

I work in the area of sustainable interaction design. My research is a human-oriented approach towards the design of interaction between people, their environment and various ICT artifacts and systems. It focuses the role of design and development of digital services in behavioral change related to the use of energy in households, the workplace, sustainable cities, and food consumption.

What do you aim to achieve?

My vision is a sustainable society encompassing all aspects of the concept. I would like to integrate socially and psychologically based research with design and technical research to understand how sustainable lifestyles may be created. One of the driving forces behind the work I’m involved in is to concretize research issues and to point to questions that might not yet have been addressed.

How can industry and society benefit from your research?

Industry and society benefit in various ways. Our research aims to shed light on the human oriented aspects of the transition into a more sustainable society. We combine technological and design research with behavioral and a human-oriented approach without reducing the role of people. Our projects have a strong focus on participation and involvement of all target groups.

Where does your research stand internationally?

Our work regarding the visualization of energy consumption is highly cited in international scientific journals and conferences. I also get many proposals from international students and researchers who wish to collaborate, which I interpret as a sign that what we do is quite well known abroad.

Why work at interactive institute Swedish ICT?

I enjoy the interdisciplinary environment, the creative atmosphere and the proximity to real world challenges. I also appreciate the autonomy, trust and responsibility given to individual researchers and groups.

How do you collaborate with industry or the public sector?

We cooperate in projects towards similar goals. An industry partner might provide a context to general research questions at the same time as concrete problems are addressed in the daily business. Our projects in the Royal Seaport are examples of how we collaborate with industry and the public sector.

Why start a project together with Swedish ICT?

Collaborating with us does not fit into an ordinary customer-supplier framework. When we develop a prototype, the value for the companies is in the testing phase and being able to influence it. We think about the project as a way for companies to learn new things, to be inspired, and to build long-term relationships.

Hightlight of 2012

The opportunity to work as a national expert on energy efficient behavior in the International Energy Agency’s program for Demand Side Response (DSM). The major goal is to form a global network of experts and to design a framework facilitating for policy-makers, implementers of DSM and other stakeholders in their work towards a more sustainable practice and behavior in relation to energy use. This project pinpoints our role as a bridge between research and the rest of society.

What do you look forward to 2013?

I look forward to communicating the results of several interesting projects. I also look forward to finally embarking on the Celsius project – a fouryear EU Energy initiative that connects five countries and 13 demonstrators for sustainable cities.

This interview was published in our annual report 2012.