The NYT somewhat breathlessly
advertorialises reports that Ford use personas in their design work, for current cars like the Fiesta and work in progress like upcoming C/D segment sedans and new pickups.
But, there’s no indication in the
press release article of how the personae are arrived at. [EDIT 1 August 2009: It seems that the persona is invented by looking at demographic data, which is one very small step better than simply making them up.] Are the personae the result of long study of buyers and owners, aggregates of hundreds of tiny specific observations of many real people or are they simply invented from thin air? I think it’s the latter, given that Moray Callum refers to them as “invented characters”.
Antonella cares more about the design and function of her telephone than that of her car. Her priorities in the Fiesta are visible in the car’s central panel, where controls inspired by those of a cellphone operate the audio and air-conditioning systems. Designers working on the Fiesta referred to the shape framing the dashboard instruments as “Antonella’s glasses.”
Sorry, but: ewww. (Also, the pic accompanying the article shows the dashboard that looks like a hybrid of an Alfa Romeo instrument binnacle and Honda B-segment centre stack. Personae do not necessarily result in innovation.)
I was going to riff on Steve Portigal’s Persona Non Grata article, and how personae tend to be treated as cartoons of real people, obscuring actual behaviour and actual activities in favour of fripperies like “Antonella’s glasses” but I find that Joshua Porter written a very long and involved explanation of the pitfalls and possible benefits of personas, which I recommend to you.
Compare Ford’s cartoon approach with that used by Honda in their development of the Ridgeline where the chief engineer for the project :
spent an hour every Saturday morning at Home Depot with [his] tasty beverage, and [he] watched people load things in the parking lot.
(quote via Diego Rodriguez’s Metacool)
That’s what Ford should be doing! The Fiesta is pretty, but it’s a 1974 (oops, originally said 1970, the Golf debuted in ‘74) VW Golf in new clothes with airbags and ABS brakes.
Where’s the insight into what people actually do with their (small) cars?