How to find your project's non-human Personas

Show notes

Finding truly meaningful non-human Personas is crucial for a successful integration into businesses. And I often hear people struggling with it. So let's talk about it.

We dive deeper into

  • What are environmental actants?
  • What are non-human Personas?
  • What is the process to get to them?

Love, Sandy

Mentioned links in this episode


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Show transcript

Finding good non-human personas is crucial for a successful integration into business, and I often hear people struggling with it. So let's talk about it.

And with that said, welcome to the Green Web Podcast. It's a podcast about ecologically and socially sustainable design. I'm your host, Sandy Dähnert, a freelance UX, UI designer and researcher based in Cologne in Germany, and the mind behind green the web.

And with everything we are doing in our daily lives and our private realm, as well as in business, with all the projects we're having, we have an impact on the environment around us. We do have an impact on people around us as well. We need to be careful with those things as well, the ones that we want to actively address, but also the ones that we passively impact. But yes, we also do have an impact on nature that we're living in and the planet we are living on. So of course, especially in business, we do have an impact at a bigger scale than what we usually have in our private lives. And first of all, we need to acknowledge that fact. The fact that you have impact on nature around you. And the second step is to act like it. And that's what we want to do. And that's what I want to talk about in this podcast episode is, first of all, what are even environmental actants? What are non-human personas and what is the process to find your project's non-human personas? So first of all, let's talk about environmental actants and non-human personas. What is that and how to differentiate it? Environmental actants are all the environmental aspects, whether that is ecosystems, regions or animals of any kind that your business has an impact on, whether that's positive or negative, it's environmental actions that can be neutral, positive, negative. It could be an ocean, it could be a city, it could be a specific animal like bird species or anything that you can imagine in the environment. In our nature, those are environmental actants non-human personas are profiles that you derive from those actants, and most of the time we just do a couple of those actants, or bring a couple of those actants in as non-human personas, create profiles that contain demographic information, as well as goals and wishes and actions and feelings of those environmental actants for example, you have 30 different environmental actors. Possibility is that you probably just have like 3 or 4 different non-human persona profiles that you have a deep dive into, into their actual problems of the Atlantic Ocean of London. As a city of the Alps, as a mountain region, there could be all kinds of environmental actants. And once you create actual profiles and go in deep research of what they need, what their pain points are, and all of those things, then you create non-human personas. Personas is a method we use in user research a lot and talk about it a lot. And this is just an adaptation from those human personas into non-human personas and natural personas. Why we want those non-human personas is to get a deeper empathy, building this empathy up to create better digital products or products in general. It has nothing to do with digital products. It is a method that you can use for everything that you do in life. Create in life, produce in life. I usually do it for digital products and for businesses. And those personas, those non-human personas, give you more of an idea and keep you in the loop of, oh, the products we're creating are not just for persona A, B, and C, but also for nature and reflecting constantly again and again about what this natural persona needs and how we can foster regeneration and creating more positive impact, reducing the negative impact. That is why we need environmental actants and non-human personas be reflected in the business that we do on a daily basis. And the regular process that I usually go through is like four different steps. Step one is finding out what your project's environmental actants are that are impacted negatively, and the ones you'd love to affect positively. I think both is really important and I dive deeper in a little bit about it. Step two is then creating non-human personas, which are, as I said, those full profiles. And then step three is diving deeper into the negative and positive impacts we have on those non-human personas. Again, it could be the Atlantic Ocean or London is a city, or the air in general, or the air in a certain area. It could be all kinds of different things. And then step four is to find solutions, really mapping the digital products that you already have, or the products and the business in general that you already have with those pain points and needs and wishes and desires of those non-human personas, mapping them together and finding out what can you do in a lot better way, as I said, to build better products and a more, we can relate to those chosen non-human personas. Usually it is the better or the long, more long lasting. We then actually work with them. Build up empathy, find actual solutions. If you do not care in your business about the environmental actants and non-human personas that you mapped out, and then the persona profiles you created, then you won't work with them and then there's no reason to go into them in the first place. So we need to know environmental actants and from that, non-human personas that we actually care for and that we actually want to work with them. So there's usually two different paths that I take for myself or in team processes to find those environmental actants. It's one going outward and two going inward. Let's talk a little bit about going outward. It's a lot about thinking processes. So really sitting together or doing it just for yourself, mapping out all the environmental actions that you have direct impact on that you can think of. So really thinking outwards, seeing in your area, researching, diving deeper into like the areas, the city, the region, the country your offices are in, your production centers are in, your infrastructure, your hosting provider, all of those things that you have, where are they and what environment are they think bigger and smaller from there. So maybe you start with your offices are in London and then think bigger from there. Like what region is London? In what country is London? In what continent is London? In what area in general is London in? And think smaller from there as well. Think from London as a city into districts, into natural environments to animals in that area, to the air quality in that area. The really going bigger and smaller from where you started. For example, on one project Cologne is a city is an actant. It's a city in Germany. And from there we asked, what are smaller pieces from Cologne that are important, such as parks, a huge river that flows through the city, some lakes, some canals, but also what is bigger around the city, like the state that Cologne is in, national parks close by the region around Cologne as a city. Because this all contributes to what Cologne as a city is and what we need to figure out in environmental actions. We also discussed some animals that live in the city or close by and what those need, things like that we can discuss once we start just at one point and then again going bigger and smaller from there. Another question that I often ask is what could someone do negatively with your product in regards to nature? That might be asking that for social media, for example, if you're working, you're a designer at Instagram or at Facebook, or if you're a designer at Ikea or any other kind of business, whether that's digital or not, thinking about what could someone do negatively with your product in regards to nature? Another question that I love to ask is what is the most unsustainable behavior your product encourages? Does your product encourage really sustainable, ecologically good behavior, or might it encourage really unsustainable behavior? This can help to think about your environmental actions. Research what is most threatened currently as at most risk. Most important, to keep healthy or to get healthy again. This might be the bee population, forests, groundwater, whatever it is in the area or regions that you're in or you have your business in. And then also think about what environmental stakeholders or actants would you like to add because you want them to benefit from your product? And this could be a favorite animal. It could be a national reserve. You want to help to regenerate. It could be a certain tree. It could be a certain fish species, a river, or anything that you feel very much connected. This is, of course, easier if you're a solopreneur or a small business, but it is also possible in big businesses, and you see a lot of businesses out there that are very highly connected to water, to oceans, to rivers, to surfing, stuff like that in that area. It's really easy to find those environmental actants, but it could be anything else as well. I've seen so many amazing and cool things, especially in my green UX UI design course, where we also talk about non-human personas and environmental actants. And it's incredible how people come up with especially environmental actions that they do care about. They have cared about them for a long time previous of thinking about environmental actions, and then bring that into their business or their project. And then from that, there is a lot of creativity that that can flow through a redesign of a website, for example. And was bringing new graphical elements into designs and stuff like that that relate to those, um, environmental actions that you want to benefit from your product. So those are the things that we can research and think about outside. And then there is the second realm which is inward and feeling. And I know this is not the typical business thing to do, but I really do see how much value it brings. And that is imagining nature in its full glory, in its ideal state, in a thriving state, and actually visualizing, meditating, going inward. And yes, nature is not only this beautiful and sunshiny thing, but also very transformative, destructive. There's water, there's fire, there's earth, there's air in all different states and shapes. So nature is not all sunshine and butterflies, but there is everything going on in nature, in our environment. So really meditate ING and visualizing nature in a thriving, beautiful state. Is super powerful because then we actually build up empathy and we actually feel connected to nature. And that could be just sitting down, closing your eyes and put up a couple of nature meditations on this podcast already so you can dive deeper into those things. It can help before you go into environmental actions and to derive actions from what you're visualizing and what you're meditating about. It could be you found your non-human personas already, and you want to go deeper into it and building more empathy around what you already have. It could be both things, and I actually love to combine both research nature, visualization, mapping, and discussions in a team bringing all of that together. But yeah, really feeling, visualizing, meditating. As I said, it could be sitting down just wherever you are closing your eyes. It could be just going outside into nature, staring at the ocean, staring at a river, staring at the mountain range you're sitting on top of because you hiked all the way up. It could be just going into the park next door and just watching birds and insects and the flowers. And maybe if it's snowing right now, just watching how the snow is covering everything and how everyone is behaving in this nature and just being there, connecting, feeling. And this is so, so powerful. And then you can find more connection to the environment. Also what environmental actions might need most care currently and what actions you are most connected to. You find that by feeling and going outside and seeing all of it with your own eyes, or listening to it with your ears and connecting, just connecting. Those are those two sides that I often go to, going outwards with research and mapping and all of that, but also going inwards. And once you have those environmental actions, you decide which ones become non-human personas, the ones that your business has the greatest impact on, the ones that are at the highest risk, the ones that you could find solutions for the easiest. There are so many different reasons why an environmental action can become a non-human persona for you and your business, and it's usually feasibility, impact, and connection being connected to those non-human personas, because then you often find the best solutions for them if you're really connected to them. And then you build up those non-human personas, those actual profiles that you create with demographics, with wishes, needs, pain points, desires, and especially solutions for those personas, you find those solutions to create better products and have those non-human personas always side by side with your other target groups, personas, whatever you created, and take them into your decision and design processes. And if you want to dive deeper into it, you're very welcome, of course, to work with me on your non-human personas or get into my course on green UX UI design where the topic is included. There is also a book by Damien Lutz called Non-human Persona Guide, I think it is. Or also in the life centered design school you find persona courses and topics. So there is a couple of things out there already talking about non-human personas in environmental actions. So if you're more interested into that topic, go and research. A couple of links are in the description. And again, find out what your environmental actions are that your business or your project impacts negatively, and the ones you'd love to affect positively. Create those persona profiles. Dive deeper into the negative and positive impacts and find solutions. And if you want to see non-human personas profile templates. There is also something that I created on my row as well as on Figma. I will link them down below as well. If you have your environmental actions and want to build your non-human personas, you're free to just explore those templates that are fully free to access and then have fun with it. Have fun with it. It's not a one time thing, it's a process to go into. Initially, it's a little bit more of a process and a bigger task to find those environmental actions, but they can change over time. You can bring new ones in, you can kick some of them out and they evolve. No environmental action keeps the same shape as it has, like 50 years ago, doing research on specific bird species, or a river or an ocean or a lake, or a national park or a city would have had a lot different aspects than doing that nowadays, because 50 years ago, those environmental regions, areas, birds, animals in general have been a lot different and acted different, especially due to our climate crisis and climate change. Things are shifting and things are going to be different. So keep it as a process. Put in a little bit more time and effort in the beginning and then build up empathy, connect and start finding new solutions. So that is all that I wanted to say about that. Hopefully you got a little bit more inspiration out of this episode to find your environmental stakeholders and non-human personas.

And then subscribe to the Green The Web podcast if you haven't done so already. I'm talking about loads of ecologically and socially sustainable UX, UI design topics. I've also done a whole podcast episode around non-human personas already in season one of the podcast, so you can go ahead and dive deeper into that one as well. And then rate the podcast if you enjoyed the show. I'm always really happy to see your ratings of the show, and it would really mean a ton to me. Visit me on the or via Instagram or LinkedIn at Green the Web and then see you in the next episode.

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