The Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

In this week’s blog I’ll be taking a look at chapter 7, Envy, in the book ‘Evil By Design’. It was provided to me by one of my fellow students in line with his masters’ thesis. In it, Chris Nodder, the author, describes how we can achieve or trigger each of the seven deadly sins in designing something.


In this specific chapter he puts forward 8 ways to make it so some of your customers feel a sense of envy in line with your product. They are: creating desirability, aspiration, pre-ownership, creating status differences, emphasize achievement, encourage payment over achievement, design status advertisement and creating a sense of importance.


I like how in a certain way, he doesn’t just rely on the fact that the sins are just bad or evil by default. The author makes the distinction between destructive envy (bad) and benign envy (good). It is important to make sure the former does not come forward in its extreme form.


The first way, creating desirability, is the same as the basics of marketing. Making sure it’s good to look at, saying it can solve your audience their problems and associating it with a lifestyle most people look up to, has been the foundation of advertising since a long time. Creating aspiration is somewhat the same I feel as creating desire, but only in a totally positive way.

Making people feel pre-ownership is a phenomenon that is relatively new I find, as it is amplified so much through the possibilities of the Internet. Because it is now so easy for developers of something to present their product online and keep their investors updated on everything this form of product investment has become so much easier. A lot of successful videogames have been made in through channels like Kickstarter.

Status difference, I think, is the best way to achieve envy. Being jealous of the status that someone enjoys is something that even goes back to high school. We all had the some peers in our teenage years that were much more popular than us. In that sense, status differences is something that we’ve dealt with our entire life yet are still susceptible to.

Earning achievement and paying for it, is something that I’m very familiar with in online games and I think has its place if it is handled correctly. High-end achievements should never be able to be bought because that way you take away a lot of prestige associated with it. If it’s impossible to distinguish between players who earned something the fair way and those who bought it, you’re not incentivising the former group to actually work towards it. This ties in with letting people advertise their status as well. It should be possible for people to show off what they’ve earned but again, you should take caution here that this does not create negative feelings if that status is a bought one.

Lastly making people feel important is, I think the most crucial one as it creates an immense brand loyalty with your customers. Making them feel appreciated and giving attention to their inputs, will make it so they will definitely come back to you.


All in all, this was a very interesting chapter. I’m curious what Anders will put forward tomorrow in his explanation of his thesis.


The suggested reading for this week by fellow student Anders is a chapter called Envy from the book Evil by Design, interaction design to lead us into temptation by Chris Nodder.
I’m already quite familiar with this book, since I`ve used it for both my programing courses already. So this is kind of going back to an old friend. Its been a while since those courses, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of Nodders readings.

Quite early in the chapter Nodder writes ” To use envy as a motivating force, it has to first exists.” This is a simple sentence, but it carries a lot of weight! If you look at almost every form of social media or large forums, there are tools in  place to invoke envy amongst its users. You have achievements, numbers of likes, upvotes, shares and reposts, all of these are designed to make us envious on one another. Everyone wants to at least once, be the person that receives hundreds of likes on Facebook, get thousands of hearts on twitter or instagram due to reposts or be the one that makes is from the drudge of user sub to the front page because of fake internet points ( the indigenous name for upvotes on the site Imgur ).

Enacting envy amongst its users are also to enact participation, or at least try to create the want to participate. It is a genius way of using our feelings to manipulate us into activity, and in such a way, generate more data for the sites themselves as we go.
Desire to be amongst the select few, and the envy of those that are, its is a remarkable play on feelings if you can afford to sit back and give it a critical and reflected view.
How easily manipulated we are.

Nodder writes about having people feel ownership of a product before they even buy it, or the product is finished. This is especially true in the gaming industry, where pre purchace now has become a normal thing, and those who do so will get early access to the game, or at least parts of it.  There is a lot of arguments going around about this, where most people think that this practise is ruining the gaming industry. By buying products long before they are finished, but that is a (loooong discussion) for another time.
This early access is also inciting envy, some people get to play the game you are so anxiously waiting for, so why not prepurchace it aswell so you can be a part of it also?
Even though you pay for an unfinished product, that might be cut short, be riddled with bugs and errors, and in worst case, might never be finished. Envy caused you to buy it, and in the end, you turn envious on those who didn’t buy it. It’s like a two-edged sword.

Other ways to make us envious towards each other is evident in apps like Imgur and Snapchat, who cleverly have implemented a feature called trophies, which are basically achievements in all but name. They are linked to your profile, and are open for all to see, so that you can brag, or others can spy and become envious. The trophy/achievement system is put in place to give users a sense of accomplishment, and to, as mentioned, enact envy, so that others are hopefully pushed into earning the same goals.

In some cases, you don’t even need to create envy, you can just build upon it. Nodders example here is the sale of premade and leveled up characters and accounts for the game World of Warcraft. As he writes, “[…]players who have more money then time.”
Create a shortcut and someone is bound to use it. An easy enough notion, and one that obviously works, since the sale of gaming accounts have been going on for 2 decades or more.

It’s quite clear that feelings are used to its fullest extent in having us grasping for more in our online activities, and that most people are clueless as to what extent their favorite website goes to in order to invoke these feelings.

If you happen to disagree with my comments, or if you feel I`ve missed a point, feel free to leave a remark.

Blogging about Masters #4

Whoah. Getting to the end of the Twine project I think.

Progress_25thOctProgress as of 25th of October.

Originally  wanted to have it finished and playable by the end of last week. but I think I can do it this week. Two of the three ‘events’ you can do before the fighitng in the game is done and I am currently in the process of the fighting mechanic.

Both you and the enemy can attack and if you win you can g on to the ending that I still haven’t finished. What I need to do is implement the items you gain from the different ‘events’ that will make the battle more than just chance on how much each of you hit the other with.

I only found out recently that audio is hard to implement in Harlowe format, but it is not essensial to the game and I do not plan on changing it to a format that support audio better.

firstpassage25thoct First passage in the game.

Creating desire for a new product

In his book “Evil by Design”, Chris Nodder writes about how to create envy and use it to enhance the popularity of a product. The first step in creating envy, according to Nodder, is to create desirability for a product. Nodder gives ut 5 ways to create desire:

  1. Secrecy: Being one of the few in the know about an item, making people speculate about the product.
  2. Scarcity: Small numbers, low availability of the item. This creates an urgency for people to get the product while they still can, and makes people think other’s like it.
  3. Identity: Identify the item with a desirable lifestyle, person or activity.
  4. Aesthetics: The item is pleasing to look at, hold and use.
  5. Functionality: The item solves a problem in an elegant way.

As an example of how desire has been created in this way, Nodder brings up Apple and the iPhone. I believe that he is right, that Apple is a very good example of a company that has mastered the methods of creating desirability.

But Apple does have an advantage in being an old, well-known company. They are pioneers in the computer market, and they reinvented themselves in the late 90’s as a company creating computers, and later Mp3-players, with an exciting new design.

So what about a start-up company with a brand new product? How can they create desire? Point 3, 4 and 5 from the list above is certainly something a start-up can do, if they have reasonably good technical- and design skills, and some start-up money and a head for marketing. But point 1 and 2 are different from a start up company. Secrecy, that few people are in the know about an item, is automatic – because no one has ever heard of the company or product before. In fact, secrecy becomes more of a problem, as the company would want to get the word out about what they are doing.

The second point, scarcity, is also somewhat automatic. A start-up company may not have the finances to mass produce whatever they’re making. Crowd sourcing and pre-purchase is a good way to get around this problem, because the company can produce their products knowing that they are financed and that some of the items are already sold. It also helps to make people feel ownership of the product before they’ve bought it, which Nodder mentions as a good strategy later in the same chapter.

A start-up company has to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products with an identity first. Then forget about secrecy – get the word out about it. And while scarcity can be a good way to create hype about a product, it is also a gamble for a start-up who needs to sell items to stay in business. Nodder’s list of ways to create desire still applies to start-ups. It’s just that these companies should turn the list up-side-down and focus on functionality, aesthetics and identity first. And they should just forget about secrecy – they can’t afford to be secretive about what they’re doing.