Personas

Looking for background information on Human-Centered Design? Go here for an introduction

 
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Personas are most commonly used to help interpret data that you collected for Research activities in the Human-Centered Design process

 

“Adding a layer of real-world consideration to the conversation”

Time required: Dependent on the number of personas created and project scope, could take half to a full day

What are Personas?

Personas are fictionalized accounts of people’s lives (based on real data) that are general enough to represent a segment of the community, but specific enough to help us imagine a real person and their needs.  The goal of Personas is to use storytelling to further help us empathize with the individuals we interacted with during the engagement process. They allow us to ensure that a person’s voice is heard even though they are not physically in a meeting.

Print a Persona Template

 
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How do I use Personas?

  • Draw out 6–10 human head shapes depending on the amount of data you have and project timeline considerations

  • Look at the quotes, needs, and insights you’ve collected through engagement (e.g., Empathy Map). Write them on sticky notes

    • Things to consider:
      What stands out? What concise quote represents a particular theme? What is something someone said in an interview that was a punch to the gut? Who’s an outlier? Who’s the norm? Who needs the most help? Who’s someone who can offer the most help? What are the major issues that need more highlighting?

  • Place one quote, need, or insight sticky note within each of the head shapes and repeat until you feel that you’ve fairly (not necessarily exhaustively) represented a set of Personas

  • Next, go through each Persona one by one and apply 8–20 insight sticky notes from the research that you have analyzed. Remember we’re creating fictionalized Personas grounded in our research. You should complete this step very quickly

  • Take bullet points from your Persona and incorporate into an Empathy Map (see Post #1) to ensure a well-rounded perspective

  • You can then type up your Personas or present them in a way that can support empathy and storytelling as you move forward

 
The process of creating Personas. Here, human heads are drawn and sticky notes are added from the research that has been analyzed

The process of creating Personas. Here, human heads are drawn and sticky notes are added from the research that has been analyzed

An Empathy Map along with an example of how Personas may be designed

An Empathy Map along with an example of how Personas may be designed

 

Trauma-Informed Considerations

  • Throughout the process of creating Personas, check your own assumptions that you bring about groups of people and their experiences

  • Be aware of how the impact of trauma and toxic stress for children and families impacts the needs and insights that you uncover

Additional Tips and Tricks

  • Although Personas are often used in the early stages of the Human-Centered Design process, they can also be used any time you are developing strategies and solutions. They are a quick way to check that the needs and perspectives of diverse stakeholders are being represented

  • There are plenty of websites with popular baby names where you can use some of your Persona’s other demographic information to search for that year of birth or for people who speak that language. It is important to be culturally appropriate and sensitive during this process. We want to ensure that we’re using popular names but also not ones that have been appropriated for negative reasons

 
Example of a Persona from the Aging by Design Project

Example of a Persona from the Aging by Design Project

 

Why not give Personas a try?

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