Building Strong Communities Through Place-Based, Citizen-Centered Experience Design

This is the introductory entry to Action! by Design and our blog, Experience This Blog.

People. Places. Spaces.

People are important.
People create the world around them, pursue fulfilling experiences, and connect with each other.

Places are important.
Places bring people together, instill pride in residents, and excite visitors.

Spaces are important.
Spaces bring identity to and connect places and can be cornerstones to strong environments.

The word community is a simple word to define a complex idea surrounding how people are connected. From the spaces they live, the things they buy, the values they share, and beyond, communities are categorized and grouped by hundreds of factors. When you look at what community means in relation to built environments like cities and towns, you have multiple groups of people with a diverse background of cultures and experiences that make up the macro community of an area. But what is it that connects these groups to truly establish the feeling of community; the sense of ownership for their spaces and a responsibility to the people who surround them? This is the question inspires our Action! Team and is a cornerstone of our process to strengthen communities through design.

3 Ideas For Building Strong Communities

Talk to People First, and Always

In order to understand how to strengthen and build community, you first have to tap into the motivations of the people that are a part of it. Who they are; their background, their jobs, their families, and their passions are key factors to consider when constructing spaces around them. What are the commonalities between the diverse groups of people that often make up communities? If you can discover this, and integrate these people into the design process, you can begin to create environments that flourish and support the community you are building with.

Understand the Built Environment

A crucial component of our process is looking at the impact spaces have on people’s experiences and their ability to move around environments. It is important when starting a place-based project to learn about the existing infrastructure in the project focal area as well as the history of the area. Tapping into the story behind how the existing conditions came about can inform decision making and help in defining the parameters of the project.

Design Spaces That Deliver Experiences

What makes spaces desirable? That’s a complex answer, but at the core of it is the experiences people have within spaces. Well-conceived architecture that considers function, utility, and aesthetic plays a crucial role in that experience, but often times we are challenged to rethink the use of existing spaces that did not have the good fortune of being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright or Zaha Hadid. So while physical structure can be an important driver of experiences, think outside the box on how to enhance and deliver experiences for people in the existing structures in your project area. Also, never disregard open space and the opportunities to activate it. Sidewalks, street corners, and parks are all opportunities to engage residents and visitors in ways that make them want to come back.


Designing for Impactful Growth

As a think tank and design company, we create incredible customer/user experiences. As a company with a social mission, the projects and initiatives we work with our clients to develop also seek to strengthen the lives of people and the communities they are a part of. Part of Action! by Design’s citizen-centered experience design process considers how we can support the stability and success of cities, towns, neighborhoods, and communities through the customer experiences we create. Working across community development, urban design, and creative placemaking inspires to realize a world where all people are valued and given access to opportunities to live healthy and fulfilled lives on a sustainable planet.

Experience This is our blog about human experiences and how design and technology impact society. We explore how design influences our world, strategies for strengthening communities, and the experiences people have in the environments that have been built for them.

We just launched Experience This Podcast to share incredible human stories about their work, their lives, and the experiences that have influenced them.