By Helena Pelsmaekers
I’m Derrick, 29, working in Finance and I am my boss’s arse-kisser. I iron my socks. I never snooze. I laugh at my own jokes. I keep talking about college as if I’m only recently graduated from King’s. I’m scared of ducks. I lied to my coworkers about having slept with 2 girls last weekend, while in real life my mother keeps trying to set me up with girls called Priscilla. I added my boss on Facebook, like every status update of him and regularly send him relevant Finance articles he never replies to. The most exciting part of the workday is getting him a latte in the morning.
Derrick was my made up persona in our masterclass today. We had to think about what kind of people would come to a conference, and what their life would look like. From everyday habits to work-related stuff. And I really enjoyed working on this assignment. When going home from school, I suddenly saw a few Derricks appear on the tube. It may sound a little bit strange to make up imaginary friends as a tool for inspiration (not that I would consider Derrick as one of my friends though). It kind of reminds you of that one wacko in your primary school who stands in a corner throwing a ball at nothing. But it helped to think about an audience in a more detailed way, and that’s what it’s all about.
Learning about this possibly changes the way you will perceive people and their personality in the future. It’s like when you know the magic trick behind something, it will never again look the same as it did before you knew. Like I felt when I learned about all the technical methods during the process of making of a movie. You can never watch a movie again without thinking about the structure of every single frame. Movies are ruined. The curse of knowledge, in a different way.
Maybe it will be the same with the personas. Like when you meet people, you will tend to take their characteristics and use them for your imaginary friends. And as Marc said, sometimes (probably most of the time) they will be based on the traits of people you know in real life. I’ll definitely use the Italian couple that argues and throws punches at each other at 3 am on our communal terrace as inspiration for a few personas.
So the assignment I’ll be setting for myself from now on is to, now and then before I go somewhere, to think about what kind of people will be there, figure out a persona and then comparing it to the actual people that show up. That way I can see if my personas are in fact similar to the real-life scene. Because it may be fun to just make up people and assume their personality based on clichés, but the real challenge is to genuinely get to know our audience.