Design Thinking

The Learning Personas of Design Thinking

Disclaimer: Kelley, Tom, 2006 The Ten Faces of Innovation

I'll be having a look at the 10 faces of design thinking and how they fit with the passion I have come to decide on using... art and manga drawing. About 2 years ago, I drew a short manga as it just ended up becoming my main project and I wanted to see where I would go with it. I'll also make use of my favourite series called Bungo Stray Dogs to add a professional manga to the analysis. I had previously made an analogy that design thinking is very kin to the process used by an artist to create a drawing or painting. So today let's go into what are the 10 faces of design thinking. This blog will be made up of 3 different articles to make it easier for my dear reader to read through.

What are the 10 faces that I am talking about to start us off:

    • The Learning Personas
      • The Anthropologist
      • The Experimenter
      • The Cross-Pollinator
    • Organizing Personas
      • The Hurdler
      • The Collaborator
      • The Director
    • The Building Personas
      • The Experience Architect
      • The Set Designer
      • The Caregiver
      • The Storyteller

From this, you can already learn that there are 3 categories that make up the 10 faces of design thinking. Let's have a closer look at them, starting with the learning personas. The first on our list is the anthropologist, they are the people on a team that will set aside any of their own notions and experience to better understand those around them. They will take the time to observe behaviours and develop an understanding of the physical and emotional interaction with the product they are trying to innovate or develop. The anthropologist will go to the people who have first-hand experience, ask them questions and observe them to be able to bring fresh ideas to the table. Now, that we have our first face in the equation of design thinking, how can I bring it back to manga and drawing? Well... when developing the idea for a manga and each of the panels or chapters to come you need references or an understanding of the subjects that may appear. To do this the artist needs to observe and see the interactions of the people surrounding the areas that will appear in the manga. This can be in terms of setting, and/or profession...etc. But not only would it be used inside the story! It would also apply to those who will be reading this manga! Who is the target audience and understand what they need? Let's use the example of Bungo Stray Dogs, in the development of each character the author needed to have a massive amount of knowledge of authors of the past to clearly and intricately recreate the authors into his story and for the audience to be absorbed by the characters and setting. However, he not only had to develop an understanding of people who have already passed on from this world, he also had to understand who would be reading his story and what they craved or needed. 

"This story is not for people who are good at living. In this world, there exist people who are so good at living that they do not need a "story" at all. They are the ones who think that stories are, after all, just a pastime for your hobbies, that they are not necessary for life, and therefore it is a waste to spend money on such things. I did not assume such people to be readers from the beginning. I cut them off. On the other hand, there are certainly people who need stories like oxygen still. I always hope that Bungo Stray Dogs will become the oxygen for such people. They are the "lost ones" that Dazai talked about." - Interview Answer of Kafka Asagiri.

The anthropologist is about learning about the people involved in the product. For Bungo Stray Dogs, Kafka Asagiri understood and observed that he was creating his story for the people who are struggling and bad at living. He understood each of the authors and his characters and he was able to design a story that would bring a sense of kinship* to his audience and help them feel like they could go on even with the pain they feel. He also observes his audience well enough that he knows how to emotionally affect the users of his product.

Let's move on to our next face, the experimenter. The experimenter is constantly looking to do new prototypes, learning from each trial and error. For this example, I would like to talk about my experience as an artist and have drawn my own short manga. The process of drawing each panel is a step in prototyping the panel to see what fits the best. I would create the panel size of other sheets of paper. Prototyping the potential ideas on the extra sheets of paper and seeing through trial and error which would fit and convey the best meaning to the other panels and to the audience. In this process, you can end up drawing the ideas you have a multitude of times just to learn what could be the best product and even going as far as to save the past trial runs to possibly use later in the storyline.

The last in the learning personas is the cross-pollinator. For this face, we find the person who will explore and use different industries and cultures to fit the unique needs of the audience or customer. They create their product through the juxtaposition of unrelated ideas or concepts. In a very zig-zag manner let's use Bungo Stray Dogs again to explore this face. Now you may be thinking how can I bring this face to Bungo Stray Dogs... but let me tell you that Kafka Asagiri must be a genius at design thinking as the product and experience he delivers is delivered perfectly to the audience he targets. So how can I use Bungo Stray Dogs to explain cross-pollinators... hmm.... well it has to do with how he created his world. He didn't just invent a new character and their relations, he made use of real people and literature relating to them. He took manga and mixed in, authors/literature, psychology, flower language, and different cultures. He took authors that people already knew and blended them with the stories they had written. Following that he realistically depicted their deep psychology and made use of flower language and clothes to give symbolism and meaning to each and every one of them. Now maybe you are thinking about how this can all fit together in a detective/mafia story... well let's add abilities that are named after or quoting the title of one of their novels/poems. Each idea blends together to create a new product for his target audience. The cross-pollinator will make use of all the world has to offer to use in their design thinking process.

... I'll be honest at this point... I have all told you about 3 of the faces of design thinking and I do worry about where my examples will bring us next... Will Bungo Stray Dogs be brought up again or will I finally move on... I mean I probably won't move on hahaha! I do intern for a company that all love Bungo Stray Dogs! However, manga design thinking is interesting as design thinking is found in so many layers of the creation of a manga that it's like falling into a rabbit hole. It's found in the understanding of the audience, in the creation of the setting and the characters, in the development of the plot, in the drawing process and in the intricate levels of prototyping each layer involves.

Congratulations on getting through the first part of this adventure through the 10 faces of design thinking. If you are still interested in completing this quest for knowledge and Bungo Stray Dogs then please find the next location: The Organizing Personas!

*Kinship: A person who kins may feel closely related to a character involuntarily, or they may choose to kin characters.

*Mangaka: Japanese word for a manga writer/artist.