“I understood, through rehab, things about creating characters. I understood that creating whole people means knowing where we come from, how we can make a mistake and how we overcome things to make ourselves stronger.”― Samuel L. Jackson
Character development is central to telling a good story. A story feels flat without well-rounded and believable characters moving through a plot. We are not invested in the story because we know nothing about the people or characters involved. It is just a list of things that happen without drama or tension.
Personas serve different functions. They are fictional representations of target users developed for design and marketing activities. The aim is to understand and empathise with the intended audience. While the two concepts are related, applying character development to personas can help create more effective and relatable personas that help designers get deep into the world of their users and then become personally invested in solving their problems.
Here’s how to apply character development principles to personas:
- Background and history: Develop a backstory for your persona. Consider their demographics, life experiences, and personal history. Think about their education, career, family, and significant events that have shaped their lives. This information will provide context and depth to the persona.
- Goals and motivations: Determine the persona’s goals and motivations. What drives them? What are their aspirations? Understand their needs and desires. This will help you align your product or service with their objectives, making it more relevant to their lives.
- Personality traits: Assign personality traits to your persona. Consider their temperament, attitudes, and behaviours. Are they introverted or extroverted? Optimistic or pessimistic? Consider how these traits influence their decision-making and interactions with your product or service.
- Strengths and weaknesses: Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your persona. What are they good at? What are their limitations? By understanding their capabilities and limitations, you can design solutions that cater to their strengths and address their weaknesses.
- Growth and change: Consider how your persona may evolve. People change and grow, and your persona should reflect this. Consider the potential factors that may impact their development and adjust their characteristics accordingly.
- Empathy and relatability: Put yourself in your persona’s shoes and develop empathy for them. Try to understand their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This will help you design products and services that truly resonate with them.
- Narrative storytelling: Consider creating a narrative or scenario involving your persona. Imagine how they would interact with your product or service in a specific situation. This exercise can help you uncover insights and understand their needs and behaviours better.
Characters and personas are both fictional representations of a person. However, one feels familiar and relatable, and the other can sometimes be confusing. The storytelling principle of “the personal is the universal” holds a profound truth: the more we delve into the intricate details, emotions, and lives of a character, the more relatable and understandable they become to a broader audience. It taps into our shared humanity and our experiences of universal feelings and struggles.
When deeply exploring a character’s story, we uncover the complexities that define their existence. We witness their joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears, drawing us into their world. The more we understand a character’s struggles, be it a quest for identity, overcoming adversity, or battling inner demons, the more we recognise the resilience and strength that resides within ourselves. We relate to their desires, fears, and aspirations, drawing parallels to our lives.
When we intricately weave a character’s details and emotions into a persona, we unveil the universal human experiences that bind us all. Through this connection, we can create stories that become potent vehicles for empathy, understanding, and self-reflection, reminding us of our shared humanity and the profound beauty of our collective struggles.
This is what a persona should do. It is based on qualitative and quantitative data yet misses the delicate details that make the valuable information on the human and emotional level.
Create realism and relatability by applying character principles to persona development. By crafting detailed and multidimensional personas, you can gain deeper insights into your target audience, leading to more effective product and design solutions!
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