Persona images – why is it such a thing?


I’m continuously fascinated that the topic that gets the most traffic on this forum (and always has) is this one. Is finding persona images such an issue?

Aside, if anyone is curious, here are the others:


WOW! interesting!! I have seen personas that use simply the silhouette for “male” or “female”. I’ve also seen personas that have no image at all. Personally, I think it’s important to have an image. As humans we identify with other humans more than we do with statistics or blurred figures. And an image can really enhance a persona. The image of a person can really fill in a lot of details for a design team. For example, I was doing a persona of a woman who worked as a nurse, had a family, etc, etc… By using a photo of a smiling woman with a stethescope around her neck wearing blue scrubs, I believe the client, the developers, and the rest of team have a better sense of who they are creating their product for.
They can “relate” to her because they probably know someone like her and it makes the persona seem more “real”. I think that’s why finding exactly the correct image is so important, AND so difficult, it has to have right feel.


I very recently had to look around for a persona image as well. The thing that makes it more difficult than it seems, I think, is this:

  • Stock images look… Well, stock. If it is very clearly a stock photo (you know the kind, perfect focus, lighting, vibrant colors) then you don’t believe that it is a real person. We want real.

  • I can’t just use a random person’s face without permission… Can I? When you search for your criteria on Bing and find one where you think to yourself: “wow, this has to be a real person”, it becomes a matter of invasion. You don’t want random people on the internet to use YOUR photo, either, so your empathy kicks in and you question if you should use it.

  • I’ll just use a friend’s image! Right? No, you can’t, that would shape your persona to fit your friend’s personality. That doesn’t work either.


I have used Creative Commons and then filtered my google results to find only images that are available for reuse. I agree, stock images of people often look like models instead of real people… Same thing with some photo apps, if you filter correctly you may find “real people” in photos that have reuse rights.


I have had some real success at using stock photos. I’m surprised at the criticism of those. I used full-length images and had them made into life-size images mounted on foam core. I also had smaller images made up to take with me to design meetings. Both were useful formats for bringing the user into the room where we were designing our user interfaces. It was fun as well as effective.


I just use to make sure stakeholders don’t get hung up on the avatar / image of one individual person from the composite of data the persona represents. I remove demographics as they rarely connect to the behaviours of the user group. I focus attention on the behaviours, needs, and goals. helps me achieve this in a lean approach. :slight_smile:


I like to draw mine