According To Gee & Hayes,how Do Online “affinity Spaces” Support Learning?

Gee & Hayes, Authors of Affinity Spaces, discuss how online interaction between people can create learning spaces.

Today we’re talking with two designers in Atlanta who are working to define the role of online communities in the community of design.


Dan Hayes and Tony Gee, principals of one of the largest design firms in Atlanta, have established a non-profit organization called The Seminary, a non-profit organization that cultivates the next generation of designers.

Open-Dredges Design is the exclusive digital marketing agency for The Seminary.

Gee and Hayes have worked together on a wide range of projects for a number of clients. Both have enjoyed working on each other’s design projects, and have become, partners in the business.

Gee points out that design has changed so dramatically that it’s difficult to visualize the formative influence designers have on society, on society’s attitudes about creativity and technology. Designers affect the way we communicate and express ourselves, he said.

“The millennial generation will change the way our ideas are communicated and understood. Design is a driving force.”


The Seminary’s focus is to connect designers, to provide them a place to learn and communicate.

It offers program elements, more design blogs, and classes designed to add design perspective to living and working in Atlanta.

The approach is predominantly online. Mobile technology and opportunities for full body simulations have greatly enhanced online learning, they explain.

They work closely with several major local universities, enrolling college students or design alumni, to expand their audience.


Gee and Hayes are quick to observe that their focus on online learning doesn’t mean that they’re not engaging in physical activities: they participate in community walks, partaking in traditional architecture activities and see design projects come to life.

“People come in and talk about the project, and send stuff back. You don’t have to work hard to learn.”


However, they’re quick to point out that online learning “does give you more of an ‘out’ to think, to work out, to share, to share in.”

That, in turn, provides a richer canvas upon which the dynamic designers can sharpen their competencies.

Gee explained that while online learning can have incredible benefits, “even a long conversation can be as intimidating as face-to-face interaction.”


“You don’t have the stacks of reading” that might discourage students from learning, Gee said.

One of the largest advantages of online learning is that it’s truly accessible to everyone. In addition, it allows students to initiate and continue the discussion.

The Seminary connects students in stages, setting a goal for each course. Students meet one-on-one with each other as appropriate. They meet as a group, but they can create a one-on-one segment for the larger group.

“It allows people to do all the things they’re already doing but in a deeper way” — organizing, working collaboratively, and taking self-direction, said Hayes.

It has been an uphill battle to advance online learning, Hayes says.

“Today it’s harder for people to comprehend the value of online learning. Many people think the more challenges you have, the easier it is to study, the more that this is the quick answer.

“[People] think design is something you do outside your job. It’s actually something that you do outside your life.”

It’s also “a gray area” in terms of what is “real learning.” The Center for Research in Design Language (CRD Language) claims that the only thing you learn in this digital era is “all that video and photo and GIFs and GIFs have to do with real life.

“The way that [students] view it is different from the way that designers and designers think about learning,” says Hayes.

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