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Becoming a choice architect

You’re at the supermarket checkout. It’s been a long day. You’re peckish. Looking around, your eyes are drawn to the conveniently placed, colourful array of chocolate bars beside the conveyor belt. Chocolate isn’t necessarily what you want – you promised yourself you’d be good this month – but what other choice do you have? It’s chocolate or nothing. You sneak in one – wait, it’s 2 for £1.50 – you sneak in two chocolate bars, pay and eat them on the drive home.

Sound familiar?

Whether you realised it or not, chocolate at your checkout is just one small example of retailers making one decision more favourable and easy than another via layout and design. Would you have spontaneously chosen to buy chocolate if it were at the other end of the shop? Probably not; you didn’t want chocolate in the first place. Plus, deserting your shopping at the till and dashing to the confectionary aisle isn’t easy. Nor would you have bought two bars if there wasn’t that alluring promise of a bargain. The fact is, if those chocolate bars weren’t in that place at that time, you would not have chosen to eat them. They were convenient and appealing at the time. That is choice architecture.

So, whether digital or physical, how might we include choice architecture in our own environments?

First, as ever, becoming a choice architect begins with understanding why our audience makes the decisions that they do. Humans are essentially pleasure-seeking, inconvenience-avoiding beings; we like our choices to be quick, simple and easy. Yet of course, there are a wide range of other factors to consider. For instance, would you have chosen chocolate if you didn’t have the time to wait at the checkout and briefly consider your options? On the other hand, would you have talked yourself out of it if you were waiting for longer? Probably. 

These nuances are exactly why observing how our audience interprets and interacts with the choices before them better enables us to cater to them. And catering to them means creating effective communications, content and campaigns that deliver.

As it is, choice architecture doesn’t always have to be about quick sales and fast food. This method is also a powerful tool for nudging your audience towards making informed, healthy choices which help them thrive. 

So what might these positive architectural designs look like? They could be introducing an app giving easier access to healthcare, redesigning roads to encourage slower driving speeds, or simply putting healthy snacks by the checkout.

Whatever it may be, if you’re designing digital platforms or physical environments which help your audience make decisions easier, then you, too, are a choice architect.

Interested in using behavioural science to understand your audiences better? Read more of our B-Sci insights here. Or you can write to us at to get started on your behavioural insights journey.

This article was written by Shayoni Lynn, CEO & Founder at Lynn.

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