The Ideal Client: How and Why to Create Personas

written by Georgia Schumacher 9 October 2014

If you want to launch a career in a creative field such as web design, fashion design, or video game development, you should understand the vital role of personas. Personas, which should be used throughout the creative and development process, are in-depth profiles of potential clients. Those make-believe individuals will represent precisely the kinds of customers that you're trying to reach.

By creating personas, you help yourself and your colleagues to analyze andunderstand your customers, audience, or users. Once you’ve built personas, all of your decisions should rely on these imaginary people and what would—or would not—resonate with them or move them to action. Ask yourself about their wants, their needs, and their goals. Think about their prior knowledge and background and how that will influence the way they interact with what you create.

Be aware, however, that you should only rely on three or four personas for one project or campaign; have more than that and it starts to get confusing. Therefore, those personas you select must accurately represent your largest groups of potential customers. Of course, you won't be able to capture every potential user in those personas; the key is to cover as many as you can.

How to create a persona

To create effective personas, you'll first have to do some investigating. That is, you must learn about the backgrounds and needs of the people who are most likely to seek your services. This kind of inquiry is called market research.

Step 1: Market research

There are several ways in which to conduct market research. For starters, you can interview past and current customers over the phone or in person, and you can direct them to online surveys. To ensure that enough people complete such interrogations, you could offer them discounts in exchange for participating. You may also be able to conduct research about those who purchase products from your closest competitors. You could even contact trade associations, major industry publications, and even friends who are in the same business as you; ask them to send you some of the customer data that they've collected over time. Even if you don’t have customers yet, you can create personas based on information you find about your target customers or the people most likely to purchase your product or service.

Step 2: Find patterns

Once your market research is complete, it's time to turn those statistics into personas. To get started, identify recurring patterns in the customer information that you've gathered in order to settle on three or four archetypes. For example, if teachers and women between the ages of 50 and 60 are among the people who appear the most often, one of your personas could describe a female, 55-year-old high school teacher. 

Step 3: Templatize

Your next step is to create a template for your personas so that they'll have a uniform layout. It's wise to search the Internet for personas and to study as many as you can; borrow the elements that most appeal to you. Your final product should be clean, attractive, and easy to read; you’ll probably be sharing this document a lot! Each entry should also include a photo of the person's face: You can purchase the rights to stock photos, or include of friends and family members.

Step 4: Fill in the details

When it comes to the text of a persona, provide the person's first name next to the photo. Below the name, supply information in several categories. The first grouping should be a demographic outline, which might include:

- age
- ethnicity
- place of residence
- educational history
- marital status
- any other relevant factors

Other categories could be employment details, technical knowledge, and relevant interests. Finally, set up a section that describes what the person would need and expect from you and your business. Note that you should use short phrases and bullet points to present these facts, rather than complete sentences.

Step 5: Distribute your personas

Once, you’ve assembled personas, make sure to share them with other designers, your stakeholders, manager, and anyone else on the project team. Remember, your persona will help you focus on your audience and ensure that your design is functional and relevant for your customers—making you more likely to succeed!

5 Places to Find Creative Inspiration

written by Georgia Schumacher 7 October 2014

When asked about his creative process, author Kurt Vonnegut advised that, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Luckily, creativity never demands perfection. Instead, your success at a creative arts school and in your creative career relies heavily on bravery and the ability to color outside of the lines. Yet sometimes, creative thought can start to flounder amid expectations of the tried and true. When you need a creative boost, try these 5 things to resuscitate your imagination and lead you toward your most inspired creations.

Fall nature scene

1. Nature

There's a reason people talk about the importance of "getting back to nature." The simplicity of the living world lies in stark opposition to fast-paced city life and 9-to-5 stuffiness. Fresh air, chirping birds, and rustling leaves serve as more than just a scenic backdrop — they summon primal instincts that take humans back to their roots, which can help resolve common barriers like overthinking and nitpicking.

2. Art

Artist Marc Chagall once said, "Great art picks up where nature ends." Whether through art galleries, showings, museums, or books, studying other artists' interpretations of the world around them is an ideal way to awaken your own inner curiosity and creativity. Trying new mediums can also help you and learning new techniques in your art school classes can also provide wonderful ways of connecting to untapped ideas.

3. Silence

Silence is known to be golden, but it's a state too many people avoid. Sitting in solitude without the distractions of conversation and television is a powerful experience that lends itself to deep thinking. With only your mind to guide you, your inner thoughts will surface without outside influences. Getting comfortable with silence through meditation or simple bouts of quiet time summons the creative energy that's often overshadowed by everyday noise.

4. Music

Music

Aldous Huxley stated, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Whether it's the melody or lyrics that move you, listening to music allows you to connect to the medium while simultaneously looking inward. The reflective ability of music is both powerfully inspiring and unifying. When coupled with other artistic endeavors like drawing or writing, its creative impact is readily achieved.

5. Journals

Many people who swear by journaling note its ability to get to the bottom of what's really inside your heart and mind. If you feel stuck or confused in your creative process, allowing yourself to write freely is a wonderful way to unlock inner feelings that can shed light on issues you didn't consciously know were affecting your work. As author Christina Baldwin says, "Journal writing is a voyage to the interior," and we think it's a voyage worth taking—during art school and beyond—for its creative merits.

Need a little help in your math class? Join MATHLIVE!

written by Georgia Schumacher 18 September 2014

Math problemThe Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division prides itself on the student support provided by our staff and faculty alike. Our admissions representatives, academic counselors, students finance counselors, librarians, and tutors are always there to lend a helping hand. Our newest addition to our extensive academic support offering includes our new MATH1010 webinar series MATH LIVE!, held twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays.

Each MATH LIVE! webinar is a 60-minute informal study session with a full-time math faculty member. In these weekly sessions, you can ask math questions, enrich your grasp on the class material and gain useful assignment guidance. By attending a MATHLIVE!, you can receive 5 bonus points, with the possibility to earn a maximum of 10 points toward your total points for the course.

Come prepared with specific questions, such as “Can you show me how to factor “x^2+5x+4?”, so that you make the most of your time in the session. All questions are welcome but more general questions (such “I don’t understand quadratic equations. Can you help me?”) are difficult to answer in a short period of time.

How to Register

Sessions are open on Monday evenings at 7:30 PM ET and on Thursday mornings at 11:00AM ET. If you’re interested in attending, register here to reserve your webinar seat. After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email with information needed to join the webinar.

For more upcoming events, visit our Events calendar in the Campus Common.

What’s New at The Art Institutes

written by Georgia Schumacher 8 September 2014

AiMBFW banner

Students & Grads Debut Their Collections at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week


Imagine you're an aspiring fashion designer. You've worked for months creating your very own collection and you're ready to reveal it on the runway. Now imagine that runway is at New York City's world renowned Lincoln Center, and the show is Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - NYC's biggest media event. This dream will turn into reality for 13 students and graduates of The Art Institute of New York City on Tuesday, September 9, 2014.

With guidance from our experienced faculty, they created world-class collections, and our partnership with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will give them the chance to unveil their work on an international stage. We invite you to meet these students and alumni and to join us as they debut their lines.

Watch the live show here on Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm EST and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with #AiMBFW.

GETCreative Courses Introduced for Adults and Teens

GETCreative logo
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University, invite teens and adults to take their creative talents to the next level through our GETCreative courses, workshops, and special events.

Participants may choose from a variety of courses designed for the pursuit of casual recreational learning or professional development designed for adults in creative careers. The classes take place in our professional kitchens, studios, and labs—providing hands-on training on industry standard tools and technology.

Creative writing workshops, an introduction to digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) photography, garment construction classes, comic book art drawing, game design workshops, and a day in the sushi kitchen are examples of the creative outlets GETCreative provides. Classes begin this month and are offered in the following areas:

- Art Foundations
- Culinary Arts
- Recording Arts
- Creative Writing
- Design
- Photography
- Textiles
- Fashion and Jewelry
- The Business of Art
- Software for Designers

Classes meet for as few as one—or as many as six—sessions.

“Our seasoned instructors guide students to challenge their creativity in a relaxed environment.” said George Sebolt, president of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “Teens can test out possible career paths while still in high school, and seasoned professionals can gain skills to help them advance in the creative marketplace.”

For more information about GETCreative, to see a list of courses, or to register for classes, please visit http://getcreative.artinstitutes.edu/pittsburgh/ or http://getcreative.artinstitutes.edu/sandiego/.

Accessibility Basics for Web Designers

written by Georgia Schumacher 4 September 2014

Accessibility is a word you'll probably hear a lot a lot when studying web design. It's a lot more than just a buzzword, though; accessibility is an important design element for every site. Designing a site without considering accessibility tools can mean missing out on a large potential audience.

What is accessibility?

The level of accessibility of a website or web application is determined by how accessible the web product is for those with disabilities. For example, a CAPTCHA authorization may allow users to have the code said aloud for sight-impaired visitors. Other examples of accessibility are:

• Using high-contrast design elements and larger fonts for those with visual impairments
• Offering audio content for the sight-impaired
• Subtitles for video content for the hearing-impaired
• Easy navigation for those with physical impairments that require voice commands instead of mouse navigation

Why is accessibility important?

Including accessibility design features is more than just being considerate; it’s smart business. For a site to reach its potential and meet desired performance metrics, you’ll want to reach as many people as possible. Without accessibility considerations, a site misses out on a huge portion of potential users and consumers. It is estimated that 15.5 million potential customers have some sort of disability that may require accessibility site components.

How can you improve site accessibility?

As mentioned above, there are many ways to make a site more accessible. Here are some more ways to add functionality for all:

1. Add alt tags to images and title tags to links. This allows interpretation software to read the tags to the visitor, so that the visitor knows what the link or photo is about.

2. Add video transcripts to pages with video so those who are hearing impaired can understand the video content.

3. Build navigation that allows users who don't use a mouse to tab easily from area to area and allows for easy scrolling using the arrow keys.

4. Enable auto-completion options on forms so those with limited body movement can fill out information on the site more easily.

5. Ensure that all site design works well with assistive technology.

To ensure that all design bases are covered, a site should be compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines were created by a collaboration of people from around the world (the Web Accessibility Initiative) to ensure that people of all walks of life can enjoy the Internet.

With proper consideration, the web designs you create will enable those websites to be visited and enjoyed by everyone!