personas & design practice evolution | alaska airlines | 2016



Alaska Airlines’ UX design team did not have a shared understanding of its users, and several user segments were not adequately considered in design work.

my role

UX Design Manager.

My role on this project was to propose the effort, engage stakeholders, lead the creation of the personas, and manage the designers who produced the final artifacts. I oversaw and co-authored the customer personas.


  1. create a set of personas, informed by real data, to help teams focus on the right users

  2. build customer-centricity in the organization

  3. improve the design process by improving upfront understanding of user needs.

  4. My goals for the team: build understanding/empathy the people people for whom we were designing



I started the process with a series of working sessions with stakeholders to review existing data and begin to organize data around customer segments using a spreadsheet:

We started with customer data that was readily available: demographics, average number of trips, income, etc. We then did research to add additional personal information to the personas: name, place of work, etc. From there, we co-wrote a high level, one sentence summary of each person. Next, a designer and writer crafted a rough draft of each persona which was reviewed and edited (which I reviewed and edited). A visual designer then took over and crafted the final look-and-feel, including creating an additional set of baseball card-sized personas.


data analysis

At right is a spreadsheet I created describing key attitudinal and demographic data for what would become 6 personas. Sorry it is obscured--it is protected by NDA.


resulting personas

sample persona

Content of the persona is obscured to protect IP.

The personas were produced as a document as well as baseball card-sized summaries. (Regrettably, due to NDA I cannot share the final outputs in high resolution)



This project was a great example of cross-divisional partnership. As is typical with most larger projects I undertake, I sought to not only produce a meaningful artifact, but to use its creation as a means to get teams to work more closely together.

stakeholder feedback

After building the personas I piloted them on a key enterprise project. Afterward I measured the efficacy of the personas on that project via a survey with stakeholders. Stakeholder feedback to the personas was extremely positive. Here are a few samples.

"I would recommend using personas on projects going forward"
100% of respondents agreed with this statement

"The personas are helping me focus on customer needs on my project"
75% of respondents agreed with this statement

"Personas are a useful tool when creating a new service or experience"
100% of respondents agreed with this statement


Finally, here's what two designers said about the use of the personas on this pilot project:


"Especially during design [the personas] have been very valuable and
has helped the team focus on the target customer."

-- UX Designer

"We need to design for a wide range of users, so having
a breadth of personas covering our customer base is extremely important."

-- UX Designer