Personifying Personas

Firstname Lorem Lastname Ipsum, Age 24, Lives in city, Works at Dolor Sit Amet, Loves 500 Days of Summer and shrimp cocktails.

Can you see this person in your mind’s eye? The image you make up is probably informed by your exposure to different types of people, stereotypes you grew up with, and your understanding of the world in general.

Consider the purpose of a persona in a large design team.

In an ideal world, the designer should be entrenched in user research, and have a good grasp of who their design is intended for. Personas then, become tools that help get other stakeholders like developers, testers, the management, grasp who the user is, and be able to empathize with them.

Let me share a way to help your stakeholders create that connect instantly and draw them into your story: Make Bobbleheads!

Here’s my story of how I used this simple prop to be an instant draw in an exhibit design.

Bobbleheads are fun! (Dwight knows)

I can trace my obsession with bobbleheads to my early childhood, where I loved all kinds of toys that would move, make sounds or help me cause a ruckus in general. A particular favorite was this miniature laughing Buddha figurine, that would animate at the slightest touch and cause me to break into a fit of laughter.

Bobbleheads are great when you want to capture someone’s attention. The movement makes people take notice and possibly invite them to interact with it. They can also be used when you need the system to indicate that it’s waiting for the user’s input.

I discovered the power of tangible interactive artifacts quite by accident, in one of my exhibit design projects. For one of my museum exhibit design project, my brief was to design interactive museum exhibits around narratives and storytelling. The museum in question was the Kempegowda Museum in Bangalore, which traces the history of how the city came to be founded. When approaching the installation design project, I felt the best way I could have people interact with it would be through something tangible, something that could be touched and felt. The project has been documented here. I’d like to talk in particular about what I discovered regarding bobbleheads.

Character Design

The character of Siddappa, the narrator, was brought to life using a bobblehead that I fashioned out of two bottles, a spring and some motors that kept it bobbing at regular intervals, just like you’d expect an old village storyteller would be. The personality of Siddappa was fleshed out and the voice recording that played in the background seemed to emanate from him.

A small prop made it possible for people to color Siddappa’s personality based on their imaginations. A simple action of nodding made Siddappa come alive and made people stay back and listen to the stories he had to tell. Interaction design, is this right here.

TLDR: Sometimes, throw the rule book out, and use a simple prop with a unique personality to tell your story. A rounded off, averaged out user profile is almost never the answer.

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Hi! I’m Manasee. I am a Georgia Tech Researcher by day and UX Design Consultant by night. Classic movies, board games, Politics and conversations over chai fascinate me. I love sitting in my balcony with a steaming hot cuppa and an occasional sutta. You’re welcome to join me. :)

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MS-HCI Candidate at Georgia Tech.