Ruth Schmidt is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Design (ID). Her teaching and research focus on the intersection of humanity-centered design (HCD)’s deep understanding of here-and-now latent user needs with behavioral economics’ “evergreen” insights into human judgment, decision-making, and behavior. Pulling from nine years in the innovation space, she combines practical application, theory, tools, and frameworks in her work to blur the line between these two disciplines, integrating behavioral insights into design methodologies and integrating design thinking into behavioral problem solving. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art/semiotics from Brown University and a Master of Design (MDes), with a concentration in design strategy, from ID.

Activities at ID

Since 2009, Ruth has developed and taught courses at ID in behavioral design, communication theory, and semiotics, including behavioral economics, advanced behavioral economics workshops, communication in the planning process, design rhetoric and metaphor, and bias and sense-making. These courses combine academic theory, practical application of existing methods, and the development of new methods and frameworks to tackle humanity-centered design challenges.

In May 2017, while serving as ID’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Ruth was the Executive Conference Chair for the Design Intersections: Design + Data + Behavior conference. This event brought together professional and academic leaders from across design, data science, behavioral science, health care, and financial services to share future-driven perspectives on the intersections of these fields.

Industry Experience

Before joining ID, Ruth held several design consultancy and leadership positions. From 2009 to 2017, she served as a senior leader at Doblin|Deloitte, where she developed applied behavioral design methodologies and led teams to advance innovation efforts within client organizations.  Concurrently, for two years she was funded by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to apply strategic and behavioral design to interest-driven youth learning experiences, pathway “trajectories,” and badging systems. As part of this work, she served as a senior design advisor and member of the leadership team at the Chicago Learning Network (later HIVE), working with the MacArthur Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Public Library, and other Chicago-area education and cultural organizations to support youth learning outside of school contexts. She continues to consult on behavioral design for startup and established companies in the health care, financial services, education, and food sectors.

Speaking and Publishing

Ruth’s invited speaking roles include invited guest lectures at the Annenberg School of Communication (USC), New Zealand Behavioural by Design, and Harvard's Behavioral Insights Group (BIG), and speaking or panel presentations including "Future Framing: Considering the Future Today for Tomorrow" (Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference, 2020); “Driving Institutional Change for Research Assessment Reform” (American Society for Cell Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2019); “Behavioral Science and Design toward Global Sustainability” (University of Virginia, Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative, and Nature Sustainability, 2019); “(Re)defining the Role of Design in Behavioral Design” (Nudgeapalooza, Deloitte Behavioral Science Group, 2019); and “Leveraging Positive Friction in User-Centered Design” (Action Design Chicago, 2018). Her work has appeared in outlets such as Nature Sustainability, Rotman Management magazine,, HuffPost, and “CMO Today” at The Wall Street Journal.

Recent Work
Scholarly Articles

Schmidt, Ruth, and Katelyn Stenger. 2021. “Behavioral Brittleness: The Case for Strategic Behavioral Public Policy.” Behavioural Public Policy.

Schmidt, Ruth, and Sarah Reid. 2021. “Wicked Behavioral Design.” Journal of Design Strategies 10 (1).

Schmidt, Ruth, and Katelyn Stenger. 2021. “Roughly Right: A Model for Behavioral Planning.” Strategic Design Research Journal. 14(1):138-148. doi: 10.4013/sdrj.2021.141.12

Nogueira, Andre, and Ruth Schmidt. 2021. “Participatory Prototyping for Food Public Policy: Applications of Systems and Behavioral Design.” Policy Design and Practice, 4(1). doi: 10.1080/25741292.2021.1888399

Schmidt, Ruth. 2020. “Strange Bedfellows: Design Research and Behavioral Design,” in Boess, S., Cheung, M. and Cain, R. (eds.), Synergy–DRS International Conference 2020.


Schmidt, Ruth, and Anna Hatch. 2021. “SPACE for evolving research assessment: A rubric for analyzing institutional progress indicators and conditions for success.” DORA.

Schmidt, Ruth. 2020. “The Benefits of Statistical Noise.” BehavioralScientist.

Schmidt, Ruth, and Anna Hatch. 2020. “Rethinking Research Assessment: Addressing Institutional Biases in Review, Promotion, and Tenure Decision-Making.” PLOS.

Schmidt, Ruth. 2019. “Research Assessment as a Human-Centered Design Problem.” DORA.

Schmidt, Ruth. 2019. “Broadening the Nature of Behavioral Design.” BehavioralScientist.