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A Life-centred Design Project

How might UX Designers use a non-human persona for Nature?

How might UX designers use non-human personas to explore life-centred innovations?

A Life-centred Design Project

How might UX Designers use a non-human persona for Nature?

How might UX designers use non-human personas to explore life-centred innovations?

Nature Non-human Persona

About

Non-human personas represent the lifeforms impacted by a product’s lifecycle, but how might a solo UX designer use them, with little time or budget for expert involvement, to inform UX decisions to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of digital products?

Creating and using personas of non-human stakeholders can help us think systemically about micro-level design (UX, UI, Visual, etc.) and how it might have impacts on non-users, people, animals, and environments along the lifecycle of the product, at the individual, community, and global levels, and over time.

Previous research talks about the need for expert input on using non-human information to avoid unintended negative impacts for well-intended design decisions.

However, many UX designers don’t get the time or budget to scientifically develop non-human personas and engage experts, effectively cutting them off from this important tool and process that not only informs design decisions but develops designers’ awareness of sustainable digital design.

I wanted to explore the pros and cons of using a non-human persona for a UX project from a solo, low-budget design perspective.

The UX Subject

The subject to which I applied the non-human persona was an online grocery shopping experience, which used behavioural UX design to nudge grocery shoppers to buy planet-friendly alternatives.

The key UX strategies implemented in this project were 1) proactive product recommendations based on planet-friendly certifications to encourage 2) product swapping.

When users clicked “Add to cart” for their product of choice, they were shown an alternative that was certified to be more planet-friendly (for having sustainable packaging, for example). Users could click “Add this product instead” and seamlessly swap from their first product of choice to the more planet-friendly one and add it to their cart.

The non-human persona

The non-human persona I used represented Nature itself, or more specifically, the interconnected life-inhabited zone from which the supermarket supply chains draw resources (living and non-living) to feed humans and supply them with goods.

Due to the guerilla approach of my personal projects, I based this persona on secondary research of data (web search, articles, etc.), as per Snzel’s recommendation and Tomitch’s validation of this approach.

I wanted this one to be something that when I read it as a designer it would help me empathise with Nature and think as if I am Nature, like a mental preparation/meditation to get into the mindset, so that I may challenge the design from Nature’s needs and give Nature a voice like any business or user stakeholder.

Nature Non-human Persona

Using the non-human persona

While some practitioners recommend using non-human personas to be used throughout the design process and referred to as often as human user personas, they can also be used retrospectively on existing designs.

My steps to using the non-human persona

  1. Empathising with non-human/non-user needs and problems—My first step was to read the persona to empathise with Nature as a legitimate stakeholder by focusing on the needs and problems
  2. Use non-human persona as a lens —I reviewed the design to identify how it directly or indirectly impacted the non-human needs or contributed to its problems
  3. Bring any insight back to the UX — I then reviewed the insight and the design to brainstorm how the impacts to the non-human could be addressed

Let’s look at the steps in more detail.

1. Empathising with non-human/non-user needs and problems

After reading the persona’s needs as a means of mental preparation, I used an immersion technique by closing my eyes and imagining I was nature, that Nature’s needs were my needs.

I imagined my body as nature, my blood the rivers, my muscles the soil, my skin the land, and my breathing the weather. I imagined humanity as a small lifeform present in my body, a part of my system, but expanding rapidly and overdrawing from my blood and my nutrients, blocking blood and airflow and congesting my veins and lungs.

I read the persona again to consider the problems impacting ‘my’ needs as Nature and what Nature needed now to repair these to get back to thriving:

  • Uninterrupted natural cycles of energy and materials (carbon, heat, etc.)
  • Time to heal soil, rivers, oceans, air, and biodiversity

And what Nature needed from us to support these changes:

  • Use fewer resources
  • Use sustainable resources
  • Repair, reuse, remake, recycle
  • Eat less meat
  • Reduce overall consumption
  • Reduce and reuse waste
  • Regenerate

This was very powerful as I somewhat decentred myself and I critiqued the design with less bias. I still had some bias, of course, but this really spun my perspective to at least what I imagined the non-human’s needs-based perspective would be

2. Use non-human persona as a lens

I considered these needs as if they were my own, and reviewed each screen design to identify how the design might directly or indirectly impact the needs and/or exasperate the problem.

I imagined, as Nature, I could speak through the blue Earth logo in the design, and I explored what I would say as Nature.

Initial thoughts were ‘buy less, use less, use what you have for longer, grow your own food, reuse or recycle the waste, help me breathe, save my diversity, give my land and waters time to heal.”

All of this spoke to great systemic change and business model revolution, which could feed into business strategy projects connecting to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).

Just a few examples of which SDGs a supermarket could champion to support the non-human persona of Nature:

  • Life on land — agricultural soil regeneration and animal welfare protection for livestock
  • Life below water—responsible fishing and fish farming
  • Responsible consumption — reduced production and packaging waste
The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

While all three Australian supermarket giants have community commitments that contribute to the SDGS, their businesses are still based on a destructive model of mass production and consumption.

To explore what systemic solutions the business could make, I used The Life-centred Purpose tool to brainstorm problems and solutions.

I first identified and ticked the related SDGs

I then brainstormed the impacts of the business on the related SDGs:

  • Livestock welfare
  • Supply chain energy use and pollution
  • Depletion of fish and sea life
  • Farmland health, soil health, pesticides, etc.
  • Agriculture’s disruption to natural habitats
  • Packaging excess and waste

Read the full process, insights, and outcomes in the case study on Medium ↗

Two books standing on and angle, The Non-human Persona Guide and The Life-centred Design Guide

Take the lead

Lead the way by redesigning your products and business to reduce environmental and social harm and regenerate the people and environments your system relies on.

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“An amazing book about the topic.”

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Damien Lutz, author of The Non-human Persona Guide, The Life-centred Design Guide, and Future Scouting

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A percentage of profits from design guides by Damien Lutz are donated to onetreeplanted.org to replace the trees used to create the books

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Lifecentred.design aims to be low carbon, inclusive, and regenerative

This site's hosting is green

Energy used by the web hosting servers is offset by 3 times as much renewable energy returned to the grid

100 trees planted!

To regenerate trees used to make my books, I donate a percentage of sales from lifecentred.design and futurescouting.com.au to onetreeplanted.org

Page CO2 emissions
Shown for high-traffic pages only

Sustainable web strategies are used to reduce page load emissions. Current industry standard is 0.5g/page view—all lifecentred.design pages are 0.26 or under

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More about my commitments | Suggest an improvement

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Lifecentred.design aims to be low carbon, inclusive, and regenerative

This site's hosting is green

Energy used by the web hosting servers is offset by 3 times as much renewable energy returned to the grid

100 trees planted!

To regenerate trees used to make my books, I donate a percentage of sales from lifecentred.design and futurescouting.com.au to onetreeplanted.org

Page CO2 emissions
Shown for high-traffic pages only

Sustainable web strategies are used to reduce page load emissions. Current industry standard is 0.5g/page view—all lifecentred.design pages are 0.26 or under

Page accessibility rating
Shown for high-traffic pages only

Pages are designed for accessible use and rated out of 100

More about my commitments | Suggest an improvement

This will close in 0 seconds

Lifecentred.design aims to be low carbon, inclusive, and regenerative

This site's hosting is green

Energy used by the web hosting servers is offset by 3 times as much renewable energy returned to the grid

100 trees planted!

To regenerate trees used to make my books, I donate a percentage of sales from lifecentred.design and futurescouting.com.au to onetreeplanted.org

Page CO2 emissions
Shown for high-traffic pages only

Sustainable web strategies are used to reduce page load emissions. Current industry standard is 0.5g/page view—all lifecentred.design pages are 0.26 or under

Page accessibility rating
Shown for high-traffic pages only

Pages are designed for accessible use and rated out of 100

More about my commitments | Suggest an improvement

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