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Non-human and Non-user Personas

To guide design consideration for the environment and indirectly-impacted humans

About

As designers and product creators, we are not just producing an item with a lifecycle defined by human use. We are releasing into the world something that impacts multiple ecosystems spanning the time and distance of the product’s entire lifecycle, from the sourcing of its various materials to the manufacturing, repair, life of use, and final breakdown.

The evolution of life-centred design (also known as ‘environment-centred design’ and ‘planet-centred design’) has begun to shift our mindset from purely human-centred design to include consideration of sustainable economical, environmental, and social solutions.

Non-human persona

Based on classic user personas, non-human personas are fictional characters used to represent the stakeholders we usually ignore-the environment indirectly impacted by the product and its production.

Anthropologist and environment-centred design advocate Monika Snezl cautions us that Non-human personas differ from User personas in that Non-human personas are primarily based on facts, so we need to check and double-check the quality of facts we include.

Data and statistics for Non-human personas can be sourced from documentation produced by respectable global organisations like the UN, and from more localised affiliate-free organisations.

Ideally, you could also interview experts such as scientists, experts, and/or people already impacted by any environmental concerns relevant to the change/product being designed.

Non-human persona purpose
Combining Nielson Norman Group’s user persona and Snezl’s non-human persona guidance:
Be a realistic and fact-based representation of a non-human entity to assist balancing user-centred and life-centred design during project shaping, development, maintenance, and shut-down by fostering empathy and understanding in stakeholders.

Tips
To create a persona that is be believable, visual, and usable, ensure you use only well-researched facts, and try using first-person narrative and verbatim to assist empathy among the team

Non-user persona

Non-human personas tend to focus on the environment (land, sea, air, animals, etc.), while classic user profiles represent the target audience. Non-users are the people indirectly or invisibly impacted at any stage of the product lifecycle:

Will the use of your product create discrimination against a minority?

Does the sourcing of your product’s materials encourage forced child-labour?

Does the disposal of your product poison the soil system in another country that destroys a foreign farmer’s ability to maintain their income?

I’ve created the Non-user persona template to represent those people who may otherwise may fall down the gap between the User and Non-human personas. The Product Lifecycle Impact Cards may highlight the existence of these Non-users, but creating their personas can help establish them as key considerations and assist the team and business in empathising.

Tips

Non-user personas may represent a real person or a persona group. They may be a combination of fictional representation and scientific data, so be as careful with what you include for these as you would with Non-human personas.

More to come from me

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Want more Design Futures?

Check out my articles on Medium or
dive into my speculative fiction novel The Lenz on Amazon.

 

Want more Design Futures?

Check out my articles on Medium or
dive into my speculative fiction novel The Lenz on Amazon.

 


 

Want more Speculative Design?

Check out my articles on Medium…

Or dive into my speculative fiction novel The Lenz on Amazon.

Product Lifecycle Impact Cards are a Designing Futures project by UX Designer/sci-fi author Damien Lutz.

Wormhole icon by ProSymbols from the Noun Project. Hologram icon by Julien Deveaux from the Noun Project.

Product Lifecycle Impact Cards are a Designing Futures project by UX Designer/sci-fi author Damien Lutz.

Wormhole icon by ProSymbols from the Noun Project. Hologram icon by Julien Deveaux from the Noun Project.