Skilled designers often create abstracted representations of
the people for whom they design. These “personae”
are based on an in-depth inquiry into the target customer for whatever it is
that is being designed. From the
inquiry, an archetype of the customer is created; one with a face and defining
qualities as well as needs, goals and values.
Say, for example, that a young designer is working on a new
health-oriented website intended for middle-aged users. The designer might create a persona named Orville
who is 45, trying to stay in shape, eager to maintain his health, looking for
nutrition tips, exercise guidance, etc. Orville
is a fiction, but one based on a researched understanding of whom this site is being
designed for. In a sense, he’s more real
than any individual customer.
I’ve seen huge posters of these personae hanging above
designers’ desks providing inspiration by reminding the designers of their
focus. The persona is an abstraction but
it is, nonetheless, able to motivate and offer real guidance. It serves as a beacon.
An analogous tool exists for life design called the future self. An individual creates this
persona by following a guided meditation or other form of inward inquiry.
During the inquiry the individual imagines his or her life at some point in the
future, say 20 years from now. The future self can be named and its life
described and explored. Where does she live? Who is she with? What does she do?
Is she happy? He or she might even offer us some useful advice or wisdom,
beyond the image, to hold in our present lives.
The technique allows us to imagine our lives free from the
present’s nagging concerns. We project a
crystalized incarnation of our highest values and aspirations. Or course the
wisdom offered by this avatar comes from within oneself but from a place of resonance,
free of anxiety. The image and wisdom
can be both inspiring and useful. The
future self, once personified, also offers an ever-present resource available
as an internal beacon showing us the path to what we aspire to become.
(Other Thoughts and Essays)