Priming is a psychological experimental technique that uses an artifact, exposure, or experience to stimulate cognitive accessibility of specific mental content. Design techniques that use priming stimuli have thus far focused on generating more features, novel features, and relevant features and addressing latent customer needs. This article presents a design technique that uses priming specifically to help designers to communicate sustainability via design at an early stage in the design process. The authors have determined that sustainable products face a special challenge in the market because thoughtful sustainability features such as decreased energy usage, use of recycled materials, or manufacturing considerations are sometimes “hidden” from the customer. As green marketing messages are not always trusted, another approach is to communicate sustainability to the customer through product features. We propose and test a new design technique that uses psychological priming to help designers generate product features that communicate sustainability to the customer. The technique involves performing a sensory-and-sustainability-heightening activity before generating ideas for product features. We investigate priming stimuli in the form of a questionnaire and a collage activity and compare these techniques along with other existing priming-based techniques to a control condition. The new technique is proven to be more effective in helping designers generate product features that communicate sustainability, as judged by both experts and consumers.

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