Methods: Personas, have you ever though where they came from?

December 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm 6 comments

ImagePic: Workshop I carried out at Stanford with Chilean incubators [CM]

Palo Alto, CA: Since I am here at Stanford as a VR, at the Center for Design Research, I’ve seen students carry out methods like “Brainstorming“, “Rapid Prototyping” and “Personas“. I would like to comment on the “personas” tool. Students learn how to make them, but do they know where they come from? It is in my belief that students or recipients of this teaching should learn the sources of these techniques. Why? Because you get to know the place where to search for more information or for understanding the rationale behind it. This situation would enable the learners to reconfigure their way of applying the methods yet in a more informed way. ImagePic: Cooper 

Making archetypes coming from ethnographic or qualitatively inspired research is not something new to the fields of Anthropology or Sociology. But it was Alan Cooper, the “humanizer of technology”, so he indicates in his website, the one that “pioneered the use of personas as practical interaction design tools to create high-tech products that address user’s needs” . In his online document: “The Origin of Personas “, published in his company’s journal in 2003, Cooper provides the “trace” to follow when, why and how this tool was developed. The interesting thing, is that this is a tool that is frames as a “PRACTICAL INTERACTION DESIGN TOOL”, which is essentially and way to see theory in a more applied manner. Many times “Design Thinking” is confused with “Interaction Design“. But this is not that wrong [this is in my PhD process thinking], both essentially relate to the same thing: ASSESSING HUMAN AND SOCIAL INTERACTIONS UNDER A DESIGN FRAMEWORK. Now that interactions have transcended the computer, it is no news that interaction design is the new Design Thinking practical tool.

“The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition)” published in 1998 ” introduced the use of personas as a practical interaction design tool. Based on the single-chapter discussion in that book, personas rapidly gained popularity in the software industry due to their unusual power and effectiveness. “ The article shows how Cooper, driven by the need to develop complex software solutions, ended up developing Goal Directed Personas. They showed to be practical and an evident communication tool. Cooper indicates “… Many practicing designers have used the brief 25-page description of personas in Inmates as a “Persona How-to” manual, but a complete “How-to” on personas has yet to be written. I hope someday that one of the very accomplished architects at Cooper will write that book because they have developed the technique to a degree of sophistication well beyond my seminal efforts. I look forward to contributing to it“. Follow these links, go and read the whole article, and the book if you can. It just makes sense to understand where do things come from.


Entry filed under: Design Anthropology, Design Research, Design Thinking, Interaction, Methods. Tags: , , .

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at