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Elaborate on research from your Discovery phase.



User archetypes based on conversations with real people.


To ground design in reality by forcing us to consider the goals, behaviors, and pain points of the people affected by our design decisions. Unlike marketing personas based on demographics or marketability, design personas describe how someone accomplishes goals.

Time required

2–3 hours

How to do it

  1. Gather research from earlier activities like contextual inquiry or stakeholder interviews in a way that’s easy to review. You can create placeholder personas without research to teach user-centered thinking, but because they’re effectively stereotypes, avoid using them for implementable design decisions.
  2. Create a set of user archetypes based on how you believe people will use your solution. These typically get titles (for example, “data administrators” rather than “those who submit data”). Review the archetypes with “who questions:” Who is included? Who is being overlooked? Who is deciding whom to include?
  3. Analyze your records for patterns as they relate to user archetypes. Specifically note frequently observed goals, motivations, behaviors, and pain points, and potential harms (e.g. lack of consent, physical danger, being retraumatized).
  4. Pair recurring goals, behaviors, pain points, and potential harms with archetypes. Give each archetype a name and a fictional account of their day. Add a photo of someone who fits the description, but ideally not an image of someone you’ve actually interviewed and who may be recognized.
  5. Link your personas to the research that inspired them. This is useful when researchers are interested in challenging the way a persona stereotypes a user.


Additional resources

Considerations for use in government

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.


18F Methods

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