Designing for Complex User Ecosystems

Fall 2016
Saturday Oct 15, 10am to 3pm
Studio 1
We typically design products and services with narrow conceptions of the user roles that we can or should serve. For example, electronic medical record systems. These are generally designed to support the work of physicians who are seen as their primary users and primary stakeholders. What if these systems were equally designed for the nurses and other providers who also must use them—or for patients and their family members?

This class is about broadening the way we look at users—taking into consideration a range of non-primary users typically overlooked by designers. We’ll learn about associate users, ambient users, intermediary users, and proxy users, to name a few, and we’ll consider ways that the broad ecosystem of user relationships can support or inhibit the success of the things we design. We’ll explore examples of complex user ecosystems from healthcare, urban planning, education, product design, and other fields, and experiment with ways to push design in innovative new directions by reimagining user ecosystems.

This class will introduce an experimental typology of user roles and relationships that can be used to identify or envision user ecosystems for any design challenge. Students will learn to employ a user ecosystem perspective to identify new opportunities, achieve different results, and help avoid unintended consequences. Student activities during class will include mapping out user ecosystems for familiar products, services, and built-spaces, and redesigning these with other user roles in mind.

24 students. Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to apply.
Apply by September 9

Teaching team
Mike Youngblood, The Youngblood Group
Benjamin Chesluk, American Board of Internal Medicine


Designing for Complex User Ecosystems