Another easy to use and super helpful tool from the Service Design toolkit is to develop and use personas.
Here’s an alternative definition to the one in the image above from this great website:
Each persona is based on a fictional character whose profile gathers up the features of an existing social group. In this way, the personas assume the attributes of the groups they represent: from their social and demographic characteristics to their own needs, desires, habits and cultural backgrounds.
Personas can be assumption-based or research-based. And sometimes one leads to the other.
For my project, I needed to develop personas that were composites of different kinds of tutors, educators and other support personnel working in the foundation education sector.
My process for this evolved over time and I would modify it based on each group I worked with. But the basic idea was this:
- Get a group of tutors together who share common attributes. An example might be that they all work in an ESOL context with refugees and migrants, or that they work with Māori learners in a particular special character context.
- Talk about my project in a way that makes sense to the participants. Often this involved telling the story of the most recent personas created from a previous group. And then drawing out differences or similarities to their own contexts.
- Set up a task with two or three key questions. In this way, they were able to describe the kind of work they do and evidence that they might bring to the table.
- Facilitate a discussion around the emerging categories. Usually, I’m finetuning the categories with each group. By the end, I had a good idea about what categories would encompass all of the different kinds of responses I was likely to encounter.
My questions were specific to the context of my project. For example, we were looking to create a draft professional standards framework for educators and others. This meant that there were three key questions to ask.
Responses didn’t give me the broad categories I needed for the framework. Rather, the responses allowed me to play with different categories and see how the responses fit.
The result: Now I have a selection of personas that I can use to tell stories about different kinds of tutors who may be affected by the new service that we are looking to design. This cuts across a lot of technical jargon and needless education-speak.
And that makes it easier for me to pitch the work to others when I need to in a very user-friendly way.