Lifting the Lid on Bacteria: Designing ambient communications to improve hygiene in primary school toilets


The primary school toilet is a risk-laden space for the spread of bacterial infection given the behaviour of its users. Research reports that fewer than half of the children who use school toilets wash their hands afterwards. Neutral poster-based messages such as 'Now Wash Your Hands' or classroom material may aid understanding and reinforce hand hygiene messages but what is the potential of using more novel, engaging, friendly and site-specific communication in the toilet environment itself?

The primary aim of this communication design-led research is to investigate the potential of using ambient, surface-based communications in the primary school toilet environment to improve hand hygiene practices (lowering the toilet lid, hand washing and hand drying). Ambient communication involves the clever and unexpected integration of graphics and media messages in specific environments. It is usually employed by commercial companies to improve engagement with a product or brand but it holds much potential for application in other areas. If bacteria and other appropriate message/images were cleverly represented in the environment, for instance, what impact would it have on behaviour in that space?

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