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design anthropologist




design anthropologist



Ari Nave is a design anthropologist. Focusing on cognitive and behavioral sciences, he works with companies large and small to innovate, disrupt, and accelerate.  Output agnostic, Ari has worked with design teams to produce products, experiences, services, communications, strategies, and brands. 

Other interests include documentary filmmaking (see, woodworking, trail running, gardening and sharing his love of pinning insects with his three kids.  








Design has been a central theme of study since originally researching evolutionary systems. The elements of intent, form and mechanics continue to attract my attention. As are self-replicating systems.    



Capital One Labs

Problem:  Reduce unnecessary charge-offs among sub-prime secure credit card holders

Solution:  Incorporate behavioral economics biases, such as how loss aversion, into payment products to nudge repayment.  For example, highlighting the security deposit as a distinct account that will be forfeited if a minimum payment is not made.   

Role:  Conducted ethnographic research and briefed design teams.  Co-worked on design concepts. 




Problem:  iiNet needed to future proof in a rapidly shifting marketplace by creating a significant innovation capacity along an otherwise risk-averse corporate culture. 

Solution:  Design an innovation competency, from structure to process to governance.  Design the compensation and incentive structures to encourage calculated risk taking, drive acceleration, and incorporate agile approaches to developing new products, services, and businesses for iiNet.  

Role:  Principal on the project, conducting stakeholder interviews and designing the innovation practice. 



2011 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference 

Problem:  Valuable insights often fail to be incorporated into a companies business.  

Solution:  Design the insights to make them infectious, so that they have greater success spreading through the organization and having impact.  

Role:  Wrote and presented the article. 

Evolutionary Matryoshka: Mapping the dimensions of the evolutionary forces impacting survival of ethnographic insights within a large financial enterprise.   Listen to the  podcast

Evolutionary Matryoshka: Mapping the dimensions of the evolutionary forces impacting survival of ethnographic insights within a large financial enterprise.

Listen to the podcast







Problem:  Ensure skeptical and reluctant 20-39 year old Californians who earn over $30K a year. WellPoint assumed the target had an invincibility complex and needed scare tactics to drive enrollment in existing products.  

Solution:  Design an insurance product that actually matches to their needs.  This entailed re-working the insurance product with actuaries to lower costs, offering the insurance directly and bypass brokers, allow online applications, clarify the offering with plain english descriptions, and embracing a brand that connected with users.  A core brand insight led to the communications work - people who are young but making over $30K a year and uninsured don't have access to a group plan, so they are artists, entrepreneurs, and independent contractors.  They are high risk - high reward personalities who "live aggressively."  

Role:  Conducted ethnographic research and worked with XD and UI teams to define the product, experience and marketing strategy.  



Neon Labs

Problem:  The value proposition of automating digital asset optimization threaten a core user, photo editors. 

Solution:  Retool the brand to create a value proposition that aligned the interests of photo editors to the Neon brand, a proposition that focused on creating net new opportunities for photo editors to optimize their web properties and drive readership on a scale and time frame that was previously impossible.  

Role:  Conducted participatory design worksessions with core employees and conducted stakeholder interviews with the board.  Defined the brand architecture.




Problem:  PNCs Virtual Wallet was so innovative, potential users could not grasp the core value proposition or functionality.

Solution:  Deliver users a proxy of the experience in ads through CGI feature rich communications that also leveraged narrative to drive comprehension.  

Role:  Conducted ethnographic research and worked with creative teams to develop concepts.  




Problem:  Levi's designers did not know their user.  A caricature of a boring middle manager living in the suburbs stymied inspiration, both in the product and in the communications. 

Solution:  Conducted an ethnographic study of the core user, leading to insights into the common set of values and characteristics that drove both product innovations and communications.  The insight, that users were universally concerned with looking appropriate from role to role, lead to the development of the Stain Defender pant line and award winning ads.  For example, they wanted the functionality of a cargo pant but needed to look professional - leading to the development of hidden cargo pockets. 

Role:  Principal investigator leading a team of researchers.  Worked with both product design to generate new SKUs and with creative teams to devise the creative concepts.  

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Early on, a fascination with economic models and decision-making led to research on behavioral economics.  Masters research was conducted among fisherman along the Lake Volta, near the village of Keta Krachi, documenting how cultural norms drove cooperative behavior that conserved open pool resources - behavior that rational choice theory could not predict.  



Doctoral research turned to exploring the evolutionary qualities of cultural systems.  In Mauritius, work documented the flow of culture, and lack thereof, across ethnic group boundaries in the presence of significant inter-ethnic marriage.  Unlike the flow of genes across the same boundaries, the linkage of one cultural attribute to another resulted in ethnically defined cultural constellations of traits to remain intact.  The result of these an other dynamics were robust and evergreen ethnic group boundaries that would not diminish over time.