What are personas? How do we use personas in design thinking? And how can personas help design thinkers improve their business concepts? These are relevant questions that we will try to address in this and the next weeks. While their use may sometimes be challenging, personas are central to design thinking and its quest to empathetically understand the needs of users. A persona is a short profile of an archetypical user: Personas are not specific users but rather ideal types that are built upon observation of multiple users. Their purpose is to create realistic representations of users. As explained by Goltz (1994): “A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people. Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables the designer to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters”.

The development of personas is rooted in research, particularly in observation of users. While there are no recipes for developing personas, engaging in the following activities may prove useful to make the shift from research to personas:

  • Look for patterns that are unique or common to observed users, and use such patterns to group observed users.
  • Based on the above patterns, develop ‘rough personas’ (or ‘archetypical models’) that represent your user groups.
  • Refine the ‘rough personas’ through conversation with other members of the design team as well as with users.
  • Put the personas into use by creating scenarios – i.e., narratives that describe how the personas behave.
  • Iterate.

In order to be effective for businesses (and start-ups in particular), personas are never used in isolation but rather are part of a wider process that sets out to address both the users’ and the business needs (aka ‘goal-directed design’). Also, it is important to note that personas are not a ‘panacea’ to create business solutions. Rather, they are tools – their effectiveness depends on use.

Experiment with the development of personas and consult the following useful resources:

A Closer Look At Personas: What They Are And How They Work (Part 1)

Personas, Journey Mapping & thoughts on implementing Design Thinking

The persona core poster – a service design tool

Connect the dots & start up!

Startup your startups

Tomorrow in class we will register your teams with Young Enterprise, and you will all become startup co-founders. It is a great leap of faith to take, and it will require from you to learn, adapt, develop, and mature very quickly.

Your team and your startup will most likely be your greatest challenge this year. Are you ready?

Theories are helpful to describe what might happen to your startup and your team, but the actual path each team will take will be different.

Personality tests are helpful in an attempt to generalise about who you might be, but your real personality will emerge in relation to the real challenges you face and the attitude you take.

Your CV is helpful to describe where you’ve been and what you’ve done before, but it cannot predict the future – where you go and which skills you ‘deploy’ with passion is, from here onwards, entirely up to you.

Are you connecting the dots yet?

Everything we have done together since the day we met in our first class has been designed to prepare you for this moment – when you take a leap of faith on who you are, who should be on your team, and what you stand for.


On our first day together, you were asked to share a little about yourself, and it was a little bit of a CV recital – sorry! ;). Three days later you already understood your CV was as good as a blank page if there was no human story to go with it. No human life is linear and no good story comes without struggle at the centre of it… Who are you and what is your story?

Then, instead of giving you a lecture on teamwork, we engaged in a conversation about your teamwork experiences. We used your experiences to write your team rulebook with ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ of teamwork – your MACE16 Team Constitution. You all already know and feel what a good team is. As of tomorrow, if not today – “put words into actions” (from your team constitution).

Our startup weekend was a crash-course designed to illustrate what your MACE experience is about and what it takes. Hard work, no? Genuine curiosity is difficult.

Most importantly though, in only two days you all went through the cycle of uncomfortable – comfortable many times, and as you learnt, connected, and developed – you all had fun, too.

What you and your team stand for is entirely up to you (provided our startup insurance covers it 😉 ) but make sure it is a good investment of your time and effort. Make sure you allow yourself to grow.

For many of you, most of this is new, and as such it is uncomfortable. New country, new way of doing things, new ideas, new you… you don’t need to be comfortable with it all – you only need to be willing to try it all out.

Remember the importance of curiosity, positive attitude, grit and growth mindset, and above all – remember the importance of a bit of fun and laughter, please. You are of no use to humanity if you lose your sense of humour 😉

A final thought for you to consider:

You are registering your startups tomorrow, but MACE is, above all, one big team. We have a big class full of great, interesting minds – let’s make it one big & great team.

See you all tomorrow!