Design 4

Design Final Tasks

Step 1 Give a damn, designing for an issue.

Create your design thesis statements and present it to the class.

Step 2 Persona: Research and identity your target audience and their specific needs and concerns.

The design persona is a fictional character created to represent the different audience types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a design, service or product in a similar way. Marketers may use personae together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personae are constructed to be representative of specific segments.

Using research, such as observed ethnographic research, interviews, surveys, etc. we can create personae in order to:

  • Allow the development team to live and breathe the user’s world.
  • Allow the team to filter out personal quirks and focus on motivations and behaviors typical of a broad range of users, while still relating to users as individuals.
  • Guide strategic decisions about a product’s focus,
  • Enable better tactical-level design decisions, and
  • Help make inevitable design trade-offs.

Gather your research and prepare questions to help discover design interventions that can help you in your design thesis project.

To help develop good research and create more credible personae, your research might contain questions about:

  • Biographic, geographic, demographic, psychographic background information
  • The business’ (in this case your design thesis) relationship to the persona
  • The persona’s relationship to product and business
  • The persona’s specific goals, needs and attitudes
  • The persona’s specific knowledge and proficiencies
  • The context of usage
  • Interaction, information, sensory, emotional aspects of the user experience
  • Accessibility issues
  • Relationships among personae

After gathering information, you may have multiple personae.  Prioritize your personae into the following types:

  • Focal—These are the primary users who are the product’s target.
  • Secondary—They also use the product and we’ll satisfy them when we can. But their needs can be sacrificed to meet the needs of focal users.
  • Unimportant—Infrequent, unauthorized, or otherwise low-priority users.
  • Affected—They don’t use the product but are affected by it. For example, one member of the family may do the research when buying a car, but the others—who are usually involved in the decision—will be affected by that person’s work.
  • Exclusionary—We’re not designing for them. Period.
  • Stakeholders—I’ve often found it useful to create mini-personas that represent their interests and involvement. These can range from advertisers to senior management to industry influencers to regulatory agencies. Stakeholders may—or may not—be something you want to put into writing. But stakeholder personas are often useful to formally create because they provide a good way of ensuring stakeholder issues get discussed openly. If you’re including a feature solely because it will get press coverage, it’s better to acknowledge this in the design process than to pretend that it’s there to satisfy a user need.
  • Read more about this from

Gather your research, interview data and begin to create a persona(s) that help you articulate the needs of your target audience, and then look for ways to create design interventions that can map to your audience needs AND your design thesis objectives.

Bring your research to life

Using your selected design thesis which you wrote and presented in the previous project, set about answering the following questions:

Who is your audience?

Who is your design for?

What are their needs and desires, fears, and habits? How do they behave?

To help you better understand who you are designing for, it is essential that you do some research, some of this may be demographic, and based on data that you attain from the library or online, but it is imperative that you interview real people who represent your target audience.  Talk to at least five people and ask them a series of questions to help you uncover how they might interact with your proposed design; whether it be an advertising campaign, an application, an event or a product. Draft your questions to enable them to talk freely about topics related to what you are designing for. Look for behavior patterns either discussed or better yet observed during your research.

For next week you will compile your research and begin to create a set of communication materials to both document your findings and facilitate conversations about the audience and their needs and desires.

Create one or more personae (descriptions of archetypal users) based on your research and examine usage contexts and the design opportunities they present.

These personae provide a consistent conceptual thread throughout the project. We use personae to focus our attention when we’re establishing a direction and generating design ideas, and to test our ideas before they’re evolved enough to share with real users. We can move the design forward with confidence, knowing we can trace every decision back to a disciplined understanding of real people.


Using your research and interviews with real people, create a drawing / first draft of the audience research presented in the format of a persona(s). You may use InDesign or Illustrator to gather your drawings, and collage together elements of the design. What ever the format and structure, be sure to communicate key behaviors, needs and desires of your persona.  Since your persona is based on research with real people and data your persona should embody the attributes of a real person.  Use quotes from your interviews, it may include a photograph, or a drawing, illustration, or a pictograph.
At least one page and no more than four pages. Page(s) should be no larger than 11 x 17” any format, and color based on your brand guidelines.

Post work in progress on blog in jpeg format.  Come to class prepared to present printed draft of the persona(s) to peers, get feedback and revise.

Examples of marketing segments, which are generalized information, typically demographic, techno graphic and psycho graphic research about a broad audience type. You can use segments as a general starting point to focus on who you will talk to and research more deeply to craft a picture of your personae.

Examples of a design personae. You’ll see that they are more specific, in an effort to uncover the humanity, desires and motivations based on research and interviews/observations of real people that represent the aforementioned segments.

Step 3 Identify scenarios that you can design for.

Designing by telling stories

Once we have a solid sense of who we’re designing for and clearly see the shape of the opportunity for a design intervention, we shift into imagination mode. We start by telling stories. We imagine each persona’s ideal experience with your product or service, and describe these experiences in a narrative format that we call a scenario.

Scenarios form the backbone of our creative process. They highlight what it will take to delight your users, and they help us express the requirements of the experience from functional and emotional perspectives. The real power of storytelling is that it’s highly collaborative; it’s easy for all kinds of stakeholders to meaningfully contribute their ideas.

Storytelling is also flexible; we can iterate through many different ideas in a very short amount of time. You could say that a good story is the earliest stage of prototyping: We use scenarios to establish a vision in a way that allows for communication, evaluation and evolution. This helps to prioritize capabilities, and to establish a strategy for how a designed campaign, product or service will reflect and extend a brand in order to appeal to a target market.

Set a clear design direction

Once everyone agrees we’ve got the plot right, we start sketching. We explore a number of approaches to design interventions, key interactions and to the visual and physical expressions of your designed campaign, product or service. Go broad before you go deep; generate many ideas to find elegant answers to the big questions.

Then build from these ideas, story boarding the scenarios with rough sketches, while establishing a high-level design language. Make the vision concrete by focusing on critical interactions, conceptual structure, design anatomy, and how it all fits together. Return to your thesis, and your persona research to ensure that you are staying true to your objectives.

Below is a high-level scenario example based on the persona of a woman and her need for insurance products and financial planning at key moments through out her life.  It is fairly highlevel and is used to identify deeper scenarios that reveal services, products and design interventions that are intended to solve her needs.

Scenarios can also take the form of concept maps or diagrams showing a flow of information, a sequence of events, etc.

Here is an example of a user experience design scenario diagram.

Step 4 Create a map of your persona’s experience

Using the scenario or user narrative that you created, map out your customer’s / constituent’s experience or life cycle diagram.

Identify an area where a design intervention can be introduced to create some benefit for your persona and create some action / benefit for the business/organization you are designing for.

Class activity April 24


Step 5 Create one example of a designed artifact that fits into the persona’s experience

Draft Due May 1


Step 6 Final Deliverable

Create a “branded” process packet that documents all of your work on this project.

Print out the process packet in color.  Bind it and present it in a professional manner along with a CD that includes PDF of this file. Write your full name on the CD and place it into a paper CD holder.

Due May 8


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Welcome to the Design 4 Blog

This blog is for inspiration and education related to the Parsons Design 4 Information Design and Visualization course taught by Andrew Robinson. The objectives of this class are to help students in the Strategic Design Studies program to learn how to create effective information design as a tool for communication. Beauty in form and function, which communicates ideas effectively, is our goal.
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