The Fun Theory: The Piano Staircase

16 نوفمبر

The Fun Theory: The Piano Staircase

by teamWill

We make choices every day. Whether the decision is about ourselves, others, or the environment, each is important. Often we blindly choose the option that is most harmful simply because it requires the least amount of energy and contains the least amount of resistance or effort. The Volkswagen Company launched a contest opened to everyone in which changing habits are inspired by fun. This is the Fun Theory.

Hoping to inspire innovative ideas and encourage people to implement their own fun theories, Volkswagen carried out many experiments for the Fun Theory. These experiments follow the habits of everyday people in different situations in order to create helpful design to change our sometimes unhealthy choices. These innovative and fun ways help to positively enforce a better habit within a part of society.

The piano staircase is an especially interesting case. It is an experiment conducted in Sweden aimed to change the lazy habits of routine 21st century society by changing the perspective and view point of the ordinary staircase. Though the invention of escalators definitely aided the design of buildings and has altered the way people travel through buildings, it has created some very lazy tendencies. Many people will wait in line to ride up an escalator, even if the stairs located right next to the escalator are open. As we all know, this kind of behavior leads to health problems later on in life. By turning seemingly ordinary stairs into a working piano, the Volkswagen Company sparks interest in physically going up the stairs and encourage more widespread use of the stairs instead of using the escalator.

Watch the results of the piano staircase here. —-> Musical Stairs

This video is taken by a subway customer simply observing people interacting with the stairs. This is very interesting because the film is not edited for dramatic and emphatic purposes. The video simply shows how people react. It starts with a woman who is testing out each step, finding a little joy in this surprising addition to the station. As she carefully steps on each step, another woman walks hurriedly down the stairs. This woman seems to find nothing interesting about the musical staircase. Another woman walks down, with earphones in, not willing to replace her recorded music with her own creation. A man begins to walk up the staircase in a normal, uninterrupted fashion, but turns around to experiment with the first woman. The last woman waits at the top with her two children, turning the stairs into a kind of game. She then proceeds to walk down each step, her children synchronizing steps with their mom. The personal interactions that people have with this little interruption from everyday life hold the power behind this design.

By changing the ordinary stairs into interactive musical keys, the traffic on the staircase increased by 66%! As the video showed, people enjoyed playing and listening to the notes played as they walked up the staircase. What is most important is that people chose to climb the stairs instead of taking the escalator. What awesome results!

This truly shows how important the “enjoyability factor” is an essential element in design for customer satisfaction and usability.


Incentive and social change

Out-of-the-ordinary and fascination

Routine and change

Laughter and world issues

Inspiration and distraction

Cost and functionality


2 تعليقان to The Fun Theory: The Piano Staircase



ديسمبر 14th, 2010 at 12:01 م

This was a really interesting inspection into something that far too many of us overlook during our day-to-day regimen. Volkswagen has done a variety of these experiments into how influencing enjoyment of otherwise commonplace/mundane activities can encourage people to not only participate in them but to do so willingly.

I think that is the main way in which this design influences people, in that it controls their behavior by engaging the premise that they are changing their behavior willingly. In this sense, the design of the musical stairs or the ACME trash can (see link below) or other FUN THEORY projects can manipulate people into being more individually responsible for themselves and their societal contribution.

As designers and architects, this too is our duty: to influence the lives of people and force them to behave a certain way, without placing any burden on them – and simultaneously contributing to their overall enjoyment of being alive.

– cam



ديسمبر 14th, 2010 at 7:36 م

I feel in some cases statistics aren’t overrated, and in this case I feel they make that much more of a difference. A majority of people pick the stairs where ever there’s the option of taking either the stairs or the elevator, and I love how in this case with the simple intervention of an interesting additional musical note to one’s journey, an increase of 66% will chose the stairs. I saw the Volkswagen fun challenge shown on one of these commercials trying to keep the roads safe, yet musical. The grooves on the side of the road were transformed so that some old classical Beethoven song was played if someone was veering off the road. I love how the intervention of design can simply change the pattern of human behavior. I feel like some of your negotiations, like out-of-the-ordinary and fascination, are synonyms, and some are cause and effect, like incentive and social change, but others are true negotiations, like routine and change.-Jennifer

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