Desire Path

Youngling Research
2 min readJul 15, 2019

Maybe you remember from going to University.. or on your daily commute when you’re on your way to catch a train…

That man-made trail.

The grass worn down from the people who, rather than continuing to walk on the street, took a shortcut.

These paths are known as desire paths.

Walkways paved after Ohio State University students’ desire paths.

They illustrate the paths humans prefer rather than the paths which were created by humans.

In an ideal world, desire paths wouldn’t exist. We’d just “get it right” the first time.

Desire paths show us a kind of ‘mistake in logic’ we made.

Logically, our designed paths are the most optimal… maybe because of cost or safety.

But psychology, they’re clearly suboptimal. So much so, that vast amounts of people break from the status quo.

Which is usually difficult to get humans to do.

In Finland, post snowing, city planners study the desire paths made by people in order to study human behavior without them being influenced by temporarily unavailable stimuli.

Can you do a similar reset in your business, to get a fresh look at how your customers prefer to interact with you and how you can best serve them?

“A path should be laid where people walk, instead of walking where paths are laid.”

-John Barth, The End Of The Road.

Are your processes serving your customers, or are you trying to force your customers to serve your processes?

There’s a subreddit about desire paths should you be interested: r/desirepath

Originally published at on July 15, 2019.