Personas (sometimes called pen portraits) are used in design and research to represent customer or user types through fictional characters, often based on synthesising research findings (e.g.., segmentation studies) but with a fully fleshed out version of an archetype or archetypes that creates a more realistic picture of an individual person with an individual history, beliefs, context, character and behaviours. In some respects, they are archetypes brought fully to life with real details and specific context.
Personas help businesses make decisions about the design of services and products, by considering the very specific goals, desires, emotions, habits, lifestyle, situation and limitations of a particular individual (albeit one that is the product of merging data across many people in some cases). Giving target customers a more human and detailed description helps decision makers and innovators move away from generic solutions to ones that are customised to more specific targets based on greater empathy with those for whom something is designed.
Ideally personas should be detailed enough to create a very clear connection to a “real” person, but kept to one page, with a narrative and specific relevant details about the person bending the persona and the beliefs and behaviours that relate to their potential use of a product or service. Personas should combine images with words to bring the description to life, visualising important aspects of their life, their friends and family and the places where they live, work and play.
Use personas to bring your research to life and to make design projects more customer-centric. Great design doesn’t consider averages, but focuses on the very real needs of very real individuals.
Universal Methods of Design by Martin & Hanington
Designing for the Digital Age: How to create human-centred products and services by Kim Goodwin