Required readings for persona creation

As I was doing some research on personas, I came several different approaches. I have mentioned Steve Mulder before, however there are two approaches that I think should also be required readings before you hend down the persona path.


The traditional standard from Cooper, which starts with user interviews and validated with quantitative data.

"Personas are based primarily on ethnographic user data. Ethnographic techniques are valuable because they assume that an interview subject's attitudes and behaviors are so habitual as to be unconscious." 

Getting from Research to Personas and for a bonus check out Cooper's book "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"


And Microsoft Research's answer by Pruitt and Grudinoldto to the expensive up-font costs of Cooper's technique, which starts with a combination of existing quantitative data and follows-up with user interviews.

"We attempt to start each Persona effort from previously executed, large sample market segmentation studies; much like those discussed by Weinstein [27]" "We have yet to start a Persona effort in an area that does not have some existing quantitative and qualitative data. Thus, our own research effort typically comes after we create our [1st pass] Personas.”

Personas: Practice and Theory

Tops by Charles and Ray Eames

We already know that Charles and Ray are one of the best husband and wife designers ever - they created extremely popular things like the Eames Lounge (670) and the Molded Plastic Chair. However they also created things like the first light-weight molded leg splits for the US Navy and The Powers of Ten video for IBM. One of my absolute favorite videos is titled Tops. They created this after a trip around the world where they noticed that certain toys, like tops, is a universal toy for all children no matter the culture or economic background.

Jumping in

One of my first tasks, is to help the team understand who we are building for. The research was kicked off before I joined, but this is one of several exercises we did to use group-think for ideas and process the research data.

If you are just getting started with personas - Chapter 3 of Steve Mulder's The User Is Always Right is very useful


New adventures

After 8 years in Boston, Lauren and I decided it's time for something new. It was an amazing time and we built a great community of friends and co-workers. However I am really excited for my new adventures at Blizzard Entertainment. I will be leading and managing the UX and Research team, so the role is very similar. However, I will also be the Product Champion for many projects - I'm pumped to be more involved in the product definition stage. Looking forward to learning something new and leaping from Finance to Gaming.


"My" mini van

It blows my mind that car companies insist on making family cars suck. They are either too small and not useful or they are functional but the worst violations of design-by-commitee. So here's my design on a better one.

First off, it should look bitch'in. This should be something that will make coaches droll as soccer moms arrive at the field feeling like rock stars. It's something that would perform well, like the BWM X5, but still have sliding doors and 3 rows. And if I had my way, I would also power it by the Tesla platform and make it 0 emission. Anyways, I keep this on in my back pocket until Elon Musk wants me to start doing some user researching the market potential - I imagine he'll call after the Model X launches. :)


Fid's iPad app is live

With a smaller user base than the main website, the team and I used this as an opportunity to try something new. To do that, we started with a ton of user research - interviews, 5000+ person survey, testing of competitor's apps, and testing of industry best. From there, we created several iterations of what it could be and tested them. Although I set the strategy and created the designs & pitch to get the funding for the projects, the final designs and IA were created by the rest of the mobile team (which I'm sad to say lost a little of the essences we sold in the pitch). But in the end, we still created a kick-ass iPad app where users can track their investments, get alerts, see what's happening to the market relative to their portfolio, scan checks, pay bills, and so much more. I am convinced that the research we did helps make this app worthy of the Top 10 in Finance and it was a huge leap forward for a very traditional company - which is pretty sweet.

UPDATE: 1 year later and only few updates, it's still the #9 finance app


Field Trip to the Glass House

Although most people only expect to see one house, Philip Johnson has several strategically placed structures on the property. And I must say, the play between useable and whimsical for each building was completely unexpected. The 5 foot stone wall, the “trick” pool, the guest house, the bunker-style art gallery, or the main house itself — it’s tough to pick a favorite.

The tours seem to sell out quick, so I’d call ahead.


My CSS Buttons

I’ve been playing with css buttons instead of images at work and they are so much better – will save a ton of time when updating the text or colors.


We got 14 ideas in 60 minutes

After the Stanford training, I have been doing some of the exercises on real projects with great results. The other day, I lead a session and the team did an amazing job redefining and solving for one of our products. I really hope some of ideas get funded.


ComicStrip is rock’in

After 6 months, our app is doing awesome. We’ve been on the Top 100 list in 23 countries, Featured by Apple, asked to speak at Mobile Monday’s, a Staff Favorite, reached #5 of all photography apps, and have maintained a 4.5 rating since launch with over 200 reviews.


Card sorting study for client

I just conducted a card sorting study with our clients at the Actors’ Shakespeare Project. This will really inform us as we move forward. At the moment, the results seem good.


Sol LeWitt at MoCA

The Drawing Series by Sol LeWitt is a must see. These pieces were all created onsite and directly on the wall. It is also a great example of something living beyond the artist’s physical life. Meaning, the system he created in order for his team to continue sharing it around the world is almost as impressive as the work. More on MoCA’s site


Hans is the man

I would suggest you watch his Ted talks too.

More Training

The task was simple, we were to each interview a customer and see how we can make their living room experience better – gain empathy, define problem, understand opportunities, ideate, test, rinse and repeat. I had a blast (don’t let the guys in the photo fool you). I was pretty pumped about my idea too. Basically, it was an interactive scheduler that allows you to setup video conference calls. There are some other twists to it too, but that’s for another time…


Our app is live!

As some know, I have been working pretty hard with Simon and Q on our first iPhone and iPad app. The idea behind it is simple. We wanted to solve the problem of posting single non-contextual photos that is commonly found on facebook and twitter. So our app enables you to create an entire story with multiple photos, captions, and in a single post while on the go.

In our minds, it’s the simplest way to share your story in just one post. I hope that you’ll give it a try, send me your thoughts, and maybe even give it a good rating in the iTunes store. Enjoy!

And remember to tag your friends before uploading…


Website =

Twitter = @YourComicStrip

YouTube = SketchandScotch

Flowchart for Retirement Savings

Although a little sarcastic, it is a honest story of the ideal path people should take when saving money. Maybe a little too honest for most though… :)


Random Pianos

The “Play Me, I’m Yours” program in New York City, is a perfect example of a small gesture going a long way.

Over the summer in NYC, I was able to witness the first week of Luke Jerram’s art installation. At first I thought it was a little odd. However, people actually played these colorful pianos and curious listers cheered every time. It didn’t matter if you were good or not. I personally love when something out of the ordinary can change someone’s experience.

Learn more the program


Some fun with iMovie, iPhone & a new Dyson

Although it’s not Adobe’s After Effects, I have been enjoying iMovie a more lately… This was our thank you note to Lauren’s sister for such a generous gift.

Personas Lookup Exhibit at MIT

The creator, Aaron Zinman, calls it Personas and it “shows you how the Internet sees you.” Currently on display at the MIT Museum and online, this elegant exhibit uses “sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet” in order to look through all available data on a particular person. And the program does not just read the available data, it tries to understand the context of the data so it can build a Persona. I particularly like the processing stage. After you type a name, the program starts it’s magic and you can see the information it’s digging up. I find it simple, clean and kind of beautiful because it’s a living thing. As the data in the intertubes change so do the results. Pretty cool.


Although the creator admits that common names will be confused with someone else, the idea is still fun. The natural language solution is also pretty inventive. You can check out the video I made or see your Persona.

Who Participates

This is a great info-graphic by Business Week using Forrester’s data. The breakdown of the age groups is nice. My only minor issue is how they misnamed the age groups. As I have mentioned before, everyone has a different definition of GenY but it is absolutely not a four year timeframe as they illustrated. I personally would have changed the “Youth” column to “Young Gen Y”. For more on the topic, you can check out my GenY and MassArt post.