Personas, Actors, and Roles

Personas, actors, and roles have been around for a long time. In Greek theater, the persona referred to the “theatrical mask” – a role played by an actor. The Romans expanded the term to indicate a role in a court of law where personas assume roles with legal attributes such as rights, powers, and duties. As actors, personas could play different roles, each with its own legal attributes, sometimes even in the same court appearance. The concept of personas, actors and roles has been adopted in a variety of fashions over the ages by the worlds of literature, music, psychology, and marketing.

The purpose for creating or understanding personas, actors, and roles is to put concepts into context.

Marketing personas helps an organization focus its efforts on the right group of customers.  Advertisers use personas to monitor behavior; browsing history, the ads people select or choose to click, and based on that data they tailor their merchandise to a targeted audience.

Personas, actors, and roles help us understand the target audiences’ mental model to inform the design on how to best achieve the desired goals.

In Experience design, Personas are a stand-in for a group of people who share common goals. They are fictional representatives – archetypes based on a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and goals. We sometimes make the distinction between Buyer Personas that makes the purchase decision and the User Persona who uses the product or service. There are also Influencers, Team Personas, and more. Personas may play different actors with a variety of roles.

Think of the persona as a group of people who share the same goals. They can assume different roles as actors in your solution. In this context, the solution could be the interaction with a product, service, space or whatever the experience is that you are designing. For example, if you were designing a software solution, you consider your personas for the goals that they want to achieve, what actors – certain activities that help them achieve certain goals – in your system and what roles – access permissions or exposure to certain tasks based on activities – that they play. The same applies to Service Design as you think about your customers’ journey through your solution. And it is no different if you are designing an experience at Disneyland or any other interactive experience.

The better you define your personas, actors and roles, the more effectively (accurately) and efficiently (faster) you can design, develop and deliver your brand to delight and enchant your audiences to create loyalty and sustainable, scalable revenue.