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Ideo's Roshi Givechi Offers Six Ways to Make Energy Conservation Electrifiying

roshi-givechiWhen Roshi Givechi first came to Ideo from Microsoft she thought she had made a mistake. The famously human-centered firm wasn't giving her many opportunities to design for real people. "I thought, is this for me?" she admitted, while giving a presentation Friday at AIGA's Y Conference. But then she was handed a problem from the Red Cross: Get more people to donate blood. Ideo looked at Starbucks for inspiration, and realized that if they designed an experience that was better branded, from the graphics to the truck itself, people would feel more comfortable offering up their veins.

In her role at the helm of the storytelling discipline at Ideo, she has explored the social aspects of gaming, the KickStart human-powered irrigation pump, and the Keep the Change program for Bank of America to help their debit card holders add to their savings. They even got Pepsi into Whole Foods (no, not Natural Pepsi, but the energy drink Fuelosophy).

ecofontBut lately, Ideo's been working on a hefty problem handed down by the Department of Energy: Make energy conservation more exciting (dare we say sexy?). In this instance, design has to inspire people to alter their behavior. How do you convince consumers to change their energy-sucking ways? Look for the results of their shifting focus campaign later this year, but in the meantime, Givechi has noticed a few good methods that work, including one product Ideo invented.

1. Whisper: You may have seen Ecofont, a free, funny, potentially-gimmicky font that uses 20% less ink due to its Swiss cheese-like holes. But it was just a clever way to draw attention to the fact that Ecofont really is doing something behind the scenes, providing some good resources for designers to print more responsibly.

helios2. Flagship: It's important to create a visual and physical "place" where consumers can experience the benefits and tangible qualities of energy conservation, like BP's "a little better" gas station Helios House, in Los Angeles.

3. Pledge: Rallying people around a cause and also holding them accountable for their behavior in a public forum can really help to motivate people to make changes. Chevron's Will You Join Us campaign uses the company's own pledges as a model to get consumers talking about action.

4. Envy: Some utility companies are actually sending bills that show your energy consumption as compared to your neighbors, and your neighborhood. Keeping up with the Joneses is an effective tool.

yello5. Warning: The SmartSwitch was invented by a group of Stanford students as a light switch that's actually harder to turn on when your house's energy consumption is high.

6. Full disclosure: If you give people just enough information about their consumption and put it in front of them in a way that makes them aware, they'll likely change their patterns. Ideo created the Yello Sparzähler meters for a German utilities company, a sleek watt-counting device that silently registers how many watts, kilowatt hours, even euros you're using.

Related: Read more about Ideo on Fast Company