The two definitions of personas

People sometimes struggle to understand what we mean by personas.

This is because there are two alternative definitions to personas. This blog posts explains each of these definitions.

Social Psychology Definition of Personas

A persona can refer to public image, public identity, self-representation, or impression management. That is, a persona is how one wants themselves perceived. For example, if I aspire to be “Professor Joni,” I would adopt mannerisms, communicate in a “professor-like” way, choose social media profile pictures, and share information about myself that supports this aspirational identity.

This angle to personas is slightly different from what automatically generated personas are about. These apirational personas refer to personas as a reflection of one’s identity or public image.

Human-Computer Interaction Definition of Personas

That’s not what APG does. We’re defining personas as “artificial people representing real user groups”. This definition of personas is used in marketing / human-computer interaction (HCI), seeing personas as user or customer groups, whereas the aspirational persona definition is often used in media studies / social psychology.

So, the main distinction is that the first definition of personas approaches the concept of personas from the public image point of view. In contrast, the second definition sees personas as representation of target users for whom to design or develop products, services, systems, and so on.