What is a Persona in Design Thinking?

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Design Thinking refers to designing solutions that are driven by user-centric approach. Every action in Design Thinking aims at delivering improved user experience to its users. To learn more about what Design Thinking is, see Design Thinking Principles for business. With the buzz on user focus design and Design Thinking currently, it is important to understand who the potential users are for whom the solution is being designed. To discover this factor, Design Thinking uses the concept of Persona to define the user picture for your business.

Persona in Design Thinking represents a typical user who is the target audience of the solution. Typical users refers to any existing users or those potential users you want to attract for the solution that you are designing. End of the day, the Persona is all about mapping the user to whom the solution is being offered. In this blog post, you explore about how to map a Persona for your business user groups, what technique to use for deriving the persona models, and interesting facts around Persona Sketch.

Defining Persona for any business model

Persona mapping is needed for any business, be it a business in delivering innovative products, technology driven, hotelier business, or e-commerce. Knowing the persona is equally important for both start-ups, established, and even budding business models. At the end of the day, there is a user who is going to use these services. Hence, having a clear picture of who that user is essential for every business model. Now that we know, Persona refers to the typical user of your business, are you wandering that you have a huge audience group and how to boil down to one persona model? The answer is simple, define persona whenever you need it. Defining a persona is like Persona-on-demand, scaling up, and scaling down the persona as needed for your business.

I suggest you to pay heed on the focus user rather than having more personas. Restrict to on one or two persona model at a time for a given workflow in a business. This way, you focus on the target users and on improving user experience for the target user group. Hence, it becomes very important that you define the Persona accurately. Consider all the inputs from user research, market study, and other use case studies to define the correct intended audience for the solution being designed.

Written vs illustrations for persona mapping

Now that we know how important it is to do persona mapping, the next question that lingers in mind is how to map the persona? There are different ways to communicate the persona to your teams. Design Thinking embraces the illustration form of representing the persona called as Persona Sketch. Today videos and images are in trend compared to the plain text. Considering the fact of thinking like designers, the emphasis is on illustration method to map the persona. It is a known fact that pictures do communicate and connect well even when used in meetings, presentations, and so on. Pictures get imprinted in human brains faster than the plain texts.

Persona Sketch

Persona Sketch is a tool that clearly defines the user persona for your business model. The user persona is represented pictorially that is called as ‘Persona Sketch’. The suggestion is to sketch the Persona rather than narrating or plain text form of the persona. The main reason here is to ensure that the complete team knows the Persona for whom the solution is being designed. The Persona Sketch when in the form of pictorial representation, the picture narration is much stronger than words.

The Persona Sketch activity is a team activity. Encourage the team to actively involve, coordinate, and arrive at a common understanding of the targeted user group. The team here refers to the key members involved in designing the solution. For example, you have a chai (tea stall) business up and running in one of the major cities and now you want to expand this business to another major city as well. Here, the persona differs from the current city where the business is up and running to the city where you want to expand this business. Although the base operation is chai business and two cities are similar, a persona sketch that is unique to this use case is essential. Go by the user research, market trend analysis and then depict the persona sketch here. Involve the team members working on this use case to derive the Persona Sketch.

Key elements in the Persona Sketch


Keep in mind to have every element in the Persona Sketch to be relevant to the intended user group of your business.

  • Name: Give a catchy name to the identified Persona. The name speaks a lot about a person. Hence, give a name to which you and your team can really connected to the depicted persona.
  • Sketch: Draw a picture of the user. You need not be a professional designer to sketch this picture. Draw a face illustration of the user relevant to the persona. If the user group for your business is mainly women, then you can draw a female picture in the sketch.
  • Role: Define the position of the user persona that is relevant. For example, if the target user group of your business service is mainly IT service administrators then the role of the Persona is IT administrator.
  • Demographics: The user age, family, hobbies, back story represents the demographics. This data is essential to have a clear picture of who your user is and how the user responds to the business service. The user experiences and expectations from the business service varies as per the user group. Hence, it is important to know and sketch the demographics of the user persona.
  • Key assumptions: This section includes all the assumptions that you have about the intended user. Include any unknown factors about the persona here.

Note: Make sure that the unknowns in the Persona Sketch limits to the key assumptions section and other elements in the Persona Sketch are relevant to the user research and market trends analysis for your business service.

Facts about Persona sketch

  1. Fast to create: These persona sketches are quick to illustrate.
  2. Persona sketches are not real people. There are key assumptions while sketching the persona. Keep in mind that persona sketch is the pictorial representation of what the typical user is from the team’s view. Here the team represents those persons involving in building this solution for the user.
  3. Shorter shelf life: The persona sketch is built at the beginning phase of designing solution to get a clear picture of the intended audience. After this exercise of persona sketch, it is bound that there is constant interaction with ideal users and teams to get all the assumptions clarified. Hence, the persona sketch now becomes clearer and the previous version of the sketch is no more relevant. Therefore, the initial version of the persona sketch to the final version, expect to have multiple revisions. Therefore, persona sketch have shorter shelf life.
  4. Constant revision: On adding any new features to an existing design, still the persona identification and sketch might not be the same. The user ideas about what they think, what they do, and how they feel about the product constantly keeps changing as and when the product is evolving and there are changes in the features. This not only holds good for product development business but applies to any business model as well.

This is about the Persona Sketch in a simple way for any non-designer to start embracing Design Thinking. I hope this blog post is inspiring for you to get start with Persons Sketching for your business use case. I would love to hear back your experience on applying Persona Sketch at your workplace. Do leave your feedback in the comments section and share any Persona Sketch examples that you think would be useful to other readers and writers here.

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