Where Hollywood and UX Methods Meet

Most of our work at User Insight involves the creation of Personas of our client’s customers. Personas serve as character “sketches” that will then live in the heads, hearts and dreams of our client’s marketing, design and product management teams. The stories of their users and their expectations for our client’s product go a long way towards creating empathy for the users, and in turn result in a better user experience.

We are often asked how to bring personas to life even more fully along the journey of product development. Consider Hollywood and its use of “method” acting. Often cited stories of method acting include the late Heath Ledger who in preparation for his role as “The Joker” in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” is said to have slept less than 2 hours per night during the shoot and was always “on” in his role as the “evil clown” who brought chaos to Gotham City. Ledger’s co-star Christian Bale employed method acting when starring in 2004’s “The Machinist”. Bale gained attention for his devotion to the role and for the lengths to which he went to achieve the titular character’s emaciated, skeletal appearance. He went without proper rest for prolonged periods, and placed himself on a crash diet that consisted generally of coffee and apples, which reduced his weight by 63 pounds in a matter of months.

Fear not, we at User Insight are not suggesting you go to such lengths to achieve empathy for your customer’s experience. Instead employ the method technique in a gentler form by considering this quote from Lee Strasberg’s Website (the granddaddy of Method Technique):

“The Method Technique trains actors to use their imagination, senses and emotions to conceive of characters with unique and original behavior, creating performances grounded in the human truth of the moment.”

And re-imagine it for the World of Customer Experience:

“The Persona Method trains Designers, Product Managers and Marketeers to use their imagination, senses and emotions to be always mindful of the individual persona’s unique and original wants, desires and behaviors, creating experiences grounded in the human truth of the moment.”

Employ members of your team to “act” and advocate for each unique Persona when considering changes, or feature enhancements. It might even make those design meetings a little more fun!