Designing for PET

What is PET?

PET (Persuasion, Emotion and Trust) is a methodology of thinking that centres on the user. Founded in social psychology and pioneered by Human Factors Inc., it's a distinct way of approaching projects -- and it underpins everything we do here at Code.

The aim is to engage the user, evoke an emotional response, and build up their trust, which should then make the user more receptive to persuasion or suggestion. Simply put, it's about understanding human motivations, and then designing solutions that use these motivations to nudge the consumer in the direction you want.

This layer of understanding comes from undertaking detailed PET research to form what is called a PET strategy. This can then be used to guide you on what PET tools or techniques to apply to ensure the objectives are achieved.

What PET means to me as a designer

I've been a designer here at Code for five and a half years, working on everything from brand micro sites, e-commerce platforms and mobile site design and campaigns, to animation scripts and multi-channel brand engagement campaigns.

I've been using PET principles as the basis for my work for over two years, and I feel it's improved my overall skill set in many ways. Some designers don't think of PET as their 'territory', but I see it as a way of thinking that can actually hugely benefit us throughout the design process. This is because it helps us to engage with the consumer on an emotional level by delving deep into human behaviours and decision making.

This article is definitely not designed to act as user manual for designing with PET, but rather as an insight into my own approach and experience, providing an introduction to PET from a designer's perspective.

The core pillars of PET

To fully understand and use PET, you need to embrace all three core aspect of what designing for PET entails. Here is a quick overview:

1. PET objectives

The first stage is to identify or formulate what the PET objectives are. A PET objective forms the basis of your PET strategy, and so needs to be very specific and result in a definitive action. An objective to 'make consumers feel positive about brand X' is not a PET objective; however, an objective to 'make the customer chose brand X over brand Y' is.

2. PET research

This is a detailed type of market research where customers are interviewed one-to-one with the aim of finding out specific information relating to the PET objective. The interviewer will use various psychology interviewing techniques with the aim of breaking down barriers to get the customer to open up and reveal the honest motivations, emotions or triggers in making a specific decision.

3. PET tools

There are over 50 PET tools, each of which can be applied -- under the right circumstances -- to help us create design solutions that nudge the user into making the 'right' decision.

Whilst this doesn't explain why Julia Roberts fell for Kyle Lovett, it at least introduces you to the idea of PET, click here to find out why I consider PET to be important to the creative process.


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