Designing Innovation: Empathy Maps and Personas

Modeling

Modeling is a great way to bridge the information and observations you discover while speaking with the people you are designing for but also with. The people we interviewed continue to invest a lot of time and energy and inevitably have different experiences, opinions, and suggestions for how to move forward and what solutions they think and feel would be or work best.

Personas can help designers to understand how our stakeholders are connected; where their interests and goals intersect. They can also help designers and other team members get on the same page. It is a form of documentation and exercise that encourages agreement as well as a foundation for future design decisions. I think of it as a way to minimize the “I like this” (personal opinion) layer to discussion and feedback that always goes back to the people who would be affected by any design solution. It helps to build consensus, effectiveness, and direction for others who are not directly involved in the design process but are closely related to its outcome.

So, last week we ended class last week split into our teams and engaged in creating empathy maps. Our team decided to stay a bit longer and finish up in real time, taking advantage of the whiteboards available to us.

What is an empathy map?

It is a method or tool to help designers spend some time in another person’s shoes; to literally empathize with what a person is feeling, thinking, seeing, doing, and even understanding their motivations and goals. They can help create the foundation of personas, an expressive user model that are ideally based in sound research. Personas shape the narratives around a potential design solution and help designers be more specific about audience — the individuals using and interacting with a physical, digital prodct or service.

Empathy maps and personas can also help focus and shape conversations, ease communication and build ideas internally between various team members and departments. It also helps designers from naval gazing and designing for designers.

For this project, we were tasked with creating at least three empathy maps and three personas given the size of our team.

Personas

Based on our interviews and research, we determined that we would start with a student, a teacher, and an urban farmer. I volunteered to create one of them.

 

persona urban farmer
An “ad-hoc” persona of Anna, an urban farmer.

Anna is based on our interviews with people from Urban Oasis, Urban GreenWorks, and public health professional with experience in community health, planning and development, among others. She is the type of person who energizes with her passion and commitment to helping underserved communities.

Combined with the student and teacher personas in addition to more interviews and research, we are feeling a bit more confident and clear about a direction. Figuring out a solution still feels like an we’re swimming in the Atlantic but perhaps now, we see a bit of land.

Persona, Patrick, an English Professor
Persona, Anna, a 12-year-old student

This is Part 6 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate.

Leave a Reply