Posted on: DEC 23, 2020
Product designers and UI designers are very familiar with the words “archetype” and “persona” and use them interchangeably quite often. However, an archetype is different from a persona; and, although both are used in relation to catering to the users’ needs, they refer to different categories of users.
Literature defines archetypes as characters or situations in stories that reflect something universal in human nature. UI designers at design firms like AMSD in Austin, TX, borrowed that definition to define archetypes as a group of people sharing common behaviors and thought processes. There is an unlimited number of archetypes in product development, but when focusing on a particular product, the number can be narrowed down. Since UI designers utilize a human-centered approach, Avani Miriyala, CEO of AMSD, recommends using the archetypes specific to the product as often as possible to ensure the design fits the user’s needs. Using archetypes also allows designers to connect certain product features with certain archetype groups. For example, shopping enthusiasts are more likely to use an app like RetailMeNot in search of deals and coupons. The company can then use those correlations to decide on the content of the app.
Personas, on the other hand, are archetypes layered with specific characteristics such as names, photos, age, occupation, or lifestyle. If you think of UI design as a canvas and archetypes as basic colors/paints, personas could be viewed as the water or gold or sand you would add to the paints to give them more character and definition. For UI designers, the details that turn an archetype into personas are necessary to effectively address a specific issue with the design or feature of the product.
According to Avani, the best way to utilize personas is to develop a story around the user of your product to inspire the design team and facilitate the design process. Essentially, personas serve as references, especially during brainstorming sessions while archetypes are best used for product strategy, user flows, and general product interactions.
Now it is clear that archetypes and personas have very distinct roles in the development of products. You can read the full article for detailed examples of how to apply archetypes and personas.