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Service Design Framework

Practices and tools for delivering optimal user experience journeys.



Quickly build a lightweight representation of your customers to develop empathy and foster a common understanding of needs and goals.


Proto-persona Mural

Who’s involved

Service designer, core team, and close stakeholders


Define proto-personas in the very beginning stages of the Initiate phase to gain a better understanding of your users

How to use this method

Personas are representations of your users based on research around actual goals and behaviors. They help the team and stakeholders develop empathy for users. While personas can take time to develop, proto-personas are a faster, lighter-weight version based on the assumptions and observations of the organization.

To create proto-personas, follow these steps:

1. Brainstorm characteristics

As a team, gather insights from research and observations. Writing one idea per sticky note, capture as much information about your users as possible. This can include background information, needs, goals, or anything else. Encourage everyone to contribute.

2. Group ideas

Once everyone on the team has contributed ideas, begin to sort. Cluster ideas together in these three categories:

  • Needs: What your proto-persona needs to accomplish their goals
  • Goals: What you’re trying to enable them to accomplish through this project
  • Pain points: What obstacles stand in the way of them accomplishing their goals

3. Focus in

Now, start to shape your proto-persona. Using real observations, decide on a set of characteristics for your persona. How old are they? What’s their salary? If your service has a technological component, what’s their level of tech literacy?

4. Expand behaviors and beliefs

Based on the characteristics you’ve chosen, jot down your proto-persona’s story in the form of a paragraph or bullet points. Who are they and what are the beliefs that inform how they interact with the service?

5. Put it all together

Pull out the needs, goals, and pain points from the larger collection that align with the characteristics and behaviors/beliefs you’ve detailed. Give the proto-persona a name.

Embrace service design.

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