Design for Communities

Session Title

Design for Communities


Aaron Dus, Gavan Gibson

Session Type: Presentation

Today’s design practitioners are faced with the challenge of formulating design systems that bridge organizations and community’s aspirations to co-create a sustainable culture that anticipates emerging socio-technological ecosystems.

By leveraging current organizational and consumer centric models, we will be exploring alternative tools and methodologies to drive insights that contextualize and shape how organizations and brands engage and interact with the consumer and communities.

The focus is on an exploratory action driven process and methodology that draws on convergent and divergent disciplines such as anthropology and business strategy:

* Design Research: Redefining the consumer through tools such as Grounded theory, Phenomenological Research, New Mental Models
* Experience design: expanding current organizational and consumer models, to include communities with the intent to generate new insights that help define a sustainable design system around the brand engagement.

Take away: Slides with
* Guidelines for designing for communities
* Final template for action process
* Experience/ Consumer/ Community Map


Aaron Dus is a Strategic Design Anthropologist with 5 years experience engaging with clients to expose actionable customer insights through ethnographic research and transformational design. In addition to consulting, Aaron has lectured in the Design Department at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). Clients include Staples, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), The Disney Channel, and LEGO Group.

Gavan Gibson is a User Experience consultant with 11 years experience working with top tier ad agencies and directly with fortune clients crafting insight driven, award winning online brand engagements for global brands such as Bank of America, Chrysler LLC, Enbridge Inc, HP, Lexmark, Mars Inc and Microsoft.


  1. Posted September 16, 2009 at 9:47 am

    This is a huge space and there is tons of existing work that has already been done in it. Things that come to mind are Amy Jo Kim’s seminal book “Community building on the web: Secret strategies for successful online communities.”

    For people that are interested in this space take a look at the available resources on this online syllabus: Everything that the presenters describe as takeaways can be found on this syllabus.

    So what do you bring that is new to this space? Why should someone come to your talk when so much prior work has been done in this space?

    Finally, please clarify what you mean by “emerging socio-technological ecosystems, “organizational and consumer centric models” and “exploratory action driven process and methodology.”

    Good luck!

  2. Meredith
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Susan! It’s great to see you’ve been so active in commenting already.

    Personally I feel that regardless how much work has been done in a space, that doesn’t mean everyone knows about it.

    This is up for debate, but since IxDA is very practitioner-focussed, with everyone coming from different academic backgrounds, I feel that talks at IxD don’t always need to be groundbreaking: they just need to discuss a timely and interesting topic that some (preferably large) subset of the IxDA community would find valuable.

    In this particular case, I’d wager not many people in our community know about Amy Jo Kim or Amy Bruckman — but maybe a talk like this would introduce them to the topic so that they’re inclined to do more independent reading themselves.

  3. Posted September 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    And I’m sorry, I didn’t include my full name on that last message.

    (Susan, we met years ago when I toured GATech, and at the first IxD conference!)

  4. Posted September 16, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Hi guys,
    Susan is right; there is a lot of stuff done in this space already. But! I don’t think enough design researchers have practical experience with grounded theory or phenomenology.

    I for one would love to see UX designers use grounded theory properly, as well as phenomenological approaches.

    Why should someone come to this talk?

    I’d go to see practical uses of both those robust approaches to qualitative research.

    Susan’s also right – some of the text is a bit wordy. Maybe you could simplify it a bit?

  5. A Dus - G Gibson
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on our submission.

    To answer your questions: Your absolutely right- there’s a lot of knowledge and people investigating virtual communities.

    Just to be clear, the objective of our submission is NOT restricted to virtual communities. But rather sharing our professional observations and insights with fellow design practitioners who are interested in the relationships between how brands, organizations engage and interact with consumer’s and communities in today’s changing economy.

    More specifically, we’ll be leveraging problem solving strategies in the area of Social Anthropology (Arjun Appadurai), Business Model Design (Alex Osterwalder), Customer Experience models (Nigel Hill, Colin Shaw/ J Ivens, Berndt H Schmitt) and Consumer models (EJ Arnould, CJ Thompson) to communicate an action orientated process, ie the right tools and methodologies to deconstruct and reconstruct a problem.

    Simply put, the central premise of our submission is that there is a misalignment between how brands, organizations view and engage with consumers and communities. We want to looks at ways of bridging that gap between between business and design.

    I hope that answers your question’s around what issues we’re attempting to tackle and why you should attend.

    Look forward to the opportunity to connect at the conference.

  6. A Dus - G Gibson
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Meredith, Sam,
    Big thanks for the great insights. We’re thrilled that our submission is getting this kind of traction.