She’s got persona – ality

Persona. A persona is an artificial identity derived from demographic analysis, survey results, focus group findings, and secret shopper interviews. It’s a convenient shorthand in the toolbox carried by user experience specialists – people like product designers, process architects and interior designers.

A shorthand that allows them to pick and choose behaviours, attributes, prejudices and generational stereotypes to support their artistic work.

(let the flood of emails begin – the ones where I’m accused of understating the value and overstating the harm created by personas)

I found this gimmick popping up in a discussion of the design aesthetic (and financial assumptions) behind Aloft, a new chain of high concept, low service hotels.

“… “We believe in trip personas,” [VP of Aloft Brian] McGuin­ness says. “You go somewhere with a persona in mind.” Project architect Bakos talks about the personas he expects will be drawn to a place like Aloft. They’re on-the-road, business-oriented people. And they don’t need shoe shining, laundry service, or a great restaurant. What they need is a place where they can check in, access their e-mail, go to sleep, wake up to natural light, and be able to grab a quick banana on their way out, all in an atmosphere of aesthetic attention and awareness of design. What they don’t need is another Ramada, Quality Suites, or La Quinta….” (Metropolis)

Ahh. So Aloft is like Target. It’s essentially a discount chain, but charges a slight premium for the appearance of exclusivity and the inference of personal taste and influence.

As a concept, it may just work. If Starwood, the chain behind Aloft, can find a way to design and construct visually appealing overnight accommodations while keeping room rates low, it may be able to draw in high-falutin and snobby travelers who suddenly find their expense accounts trimmed.

Of course, you can always wake up to natural light by … camping. Better have a Perma-Prest suit, though.

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