Bridging world theatre and personas: learn from playwriting and improve your persona writing skills

To design IT-systems we need empathy for the humans using the systems we design, to understand their fears and aspirations, to understand the world they inhabit, and the context of use.

Personas, user types, or whatever you call it, are means to that end. Over the years a certain way of presenting the descriptions has developed – a one-pager with a photo, a name and age, a description. Maybe the different descriptions are color-coded to make the reader able to distinguish between different descriptions.

However, the actual writing of empathic personas can be a daunting and difficult task.

What if we could learn from those who are skilled in the craft of writing to create empathy for others? What if we could draw inspiration from the empathy evoked by characters we identify with on stage or on television?

What if there are parallels to be drawn between crafting a character, and how designers must consider the fears and aspirations of the users interacting with the systems and services we construct?

Archetypical characters in dramatic Tragedy and Comedy have been developed and refined over centuries across multiple countries and playwrights to become the modern personas we loyally “binge-watch” on our streaming platforms. We propose that there is inspiration to get from this historical process and the famous characters, we all know and love from world theatre.

In this one-day workshop, script writer, Kevin Doyle, and persona researcher, Lene Nielsen, will cover the foundations of personas and empathic character writing. Kevin Doyle will share with class participants specific examples and templates normally only available to “show-runners” and executives working in the TV/Film industries to help demystify the writing process.

Outcome of the workshop

  • You will improve your persona writing skills through writing sessions and critique
  • You will understand that there is more than one way to present personas
  • You will obtain an improved “character” vocabulary and expanded frame of reference
  • You will be presented with how to write personas to different target groups
  • You will depart with greater confidence and enthusiasm in your own writing abilities
  • Your empathic skills will improve


Workshop program

09.00 - 10.00: A brief history of character: How did we arrive at our present conception? (Kevin)

10.15 - 11.15: Writing session 11.15-12.00: Writing presentation and discussion

12.00 - 13.00: Lunch

13.00 - 14.00: How to use persona? personas for whom? (Lene)

14.15 - 15.15: Writing session (write personas for different audiences)

15.15 - 16.00: Writing presentation and discussion

16.00 - 16.30: Wrap up

Instructor: Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle is an award-winning writer and director of theatre and film working between the European Union and his native New York since 2008.

His plays have been translated into French, Romanian, and Swedish.

He is the writer and creator of two historical dramas being developed for American television.

Doyle designed a unique “Playwriting” course to reflect his own approach to theatre-making, that he has taught at universities in Finland and the United States.

His recent theatre performance “Svaneke” will receive a national tour of Denmark during the Fall 2022 Season, after it premiered at the Bornholms Teater in 2021.

Instructor: Lene Nielsen

Lene Nielsen is Associate Professor at IT University Copenhagen, Business IT and the leading expert on personas in Denmark. Besides the scientific research on personas, she has created personas for large international companies. These days she does coaching of companies that want to implement personas in their design processes. She has experience in innovation methods and in UX in agile development. Besides more than 80 scientific papers, she is the author of the book Personas - User focused design, 2nd ed. Springer Verlag, 2019.

Lene Nielsen has more than 20 years of teaching experience. She currently teaches concept development, UX in agile and service design – all with a focus on personas.

Practical Information

Time and place:
The workshop will take place at the IT University on 3 November 2022.

Admission requirements
There are no admission requirements.

5.000 DKK. The price does not include value added tax.

The course is taught in English. There is no exam but you will be awarded a certificate upon completion of the course.

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