Primary and secondary personas. And the extras!

In this entertaining, inspiring and informative talk with IDEO’s David Kelley, David mentioned something about personas that caught my attention. He explained that at IDEO they use secondary and primary personas.

To be honest, this sounds very logical. I just did not look at personas that way. We at 31Volts tend to talk about personas as ‘main characters‘. Like in movies. For example all movies have main characters and supporting acts. The primary personas and secondary personas. But also bystanders, the people that enrich the scene, bring it to life. The extras.

Talking about this topic at our studio I remembered a quote by Pharrel Williams. Yes, the music producer. In an interview with Gilles Peterson in 2006, he talked about string sections in music.

He said: “Pssss… Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones taught me that strings are… the most important part… Upon talking to Rod Temperton, I realised that like strings are like drapes in the room. They just dress up whatever you have beautifully when they are coordinated right. When they are wrong they gonna make everything clash. When they are right they are gonna make everything clear, make you wanna see through the window and see what a beautiful place you have, from the inside looking out.”

What this has to do with personas? Well for me it made me realise that yes, to design a service it is very practical (even wise) to design for a primary persona. Like David says, the clients can focus their attention on the secondary personas in a later stage. But another way to look at it, is to design for the primary persona in relation to the secondary persona and in relation to the bystanders. Like in music the role of the music arranger is the designer of the whole experience. From the lead singer to the percussion to the strings. The service designer could (or should) think of herself as the music arranger in order to create the whole experience. With the main- and supporting characters ánd the extras in mind.



At 31Volts we love people, design and innovation. Occasionally we take the time to share our thoughts on this blog. Like what you see? Let's get in touch!

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