Micro: change at the individual level


When designing at the micro or individual level, you need to be thinking about how to take the "user" perspective; in other words moving beyond an idealized sense of how one might use a new product or service to gain a deeper understanding of the lived experience. At the micro level it is often an individual's attitudes, behavior, skills, or motivation that are the focus of your intervention, and it is important to understand what it is that people really do as opposed to only what they stay they do. While the individual is your entry point to addressing a challenge at this level, it is important to also start to think about who are the other stakeholders with whom your target individual interacts around this particular issue or challenge as behaviors rarely happen in isolation. Finally, when designing to reach the individual level, it's also important to consider what kind of knowledge has already been collected about this group of individuals, either by your own organization, or your grantee.

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • Who are the individuals that you will need to reach to do this design? Where are they located? What types of concerns should you take into consideration when talking with these individuals about the new product or service you are designing? For example, are they particularly vulnerable due to age, level of independence, ethnicity, religion, etc.?
  • Consider what you know about the individuals your intervention is designed to reach. For example, do you have access to a robust segmentation of users with attitudes, behaviors, needs and motivations already mapped? The investment can benefit from thinking ahead of time about how a product(s) will be launched - who will use it, in what settings, what is the process into which the product will be introduced, the final cost of the project and anything that goes with it, etc.?
  • Consider the types of skillsets that you might need given you are designing at this more micro/individual level. For example, if you are engaging in product design you will want to ensure that you have strong product designers on the team, and if you are engaging in service design you will want a team with that specific experience as well.
  • You can benefit from building in additional time and budget for a segmentation if one doesn't exist.
  • Behavioral insights are an important element to take into consideration when designing to change attitudes and behaviors. Keep this in mind when putting together the project team as you may need to bring in specific social science expertise (eg. psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc) if your design partner is not especially strong in that area.


  • Be wary of the idea that there is one way to do segmentations. A strong behavioral and attitudinal segmentation can start the design process and does not necessarily need to be quantitatively validated up front. Allowing for an iterative process will help you to hone in on which segments are the most critical to your project.

Questions for potential partners

  • How do you segment your users? Can you show me a previous segmentation and walk through how you used it to make decisions?
  • What experience do you have with [insert types of populations]? If you have never worked with this population in this geography, do you have a partner who you can bring in to provide that expertise?
  • When discussing sensitive topics, what do you do to ensure that the people with whom you are speaking are protected and do not risk exposure when discussing such issues?
  • Could you tell me a bit more about the types of design expertise you have on your team and how you would bring these together in this work? What about other types of expertise that you feel are necessary for really understanding people's behavior?
  • We have a robust segmentation that we would like you to work from. Can you tell me a little bit about how you integrate work that you haven't done yourself into your process?

Resources and links