Utilizing Personas and Evidence-Based Design to Inform Wayfinding

Utilizing Personas and Evidence-Based Design to Inform Wayfinding

What are personas?

Personas present an empathetic story (for example, a patient’s journey through the healthcare environment) which allows us to better understand the human experience. Personas are a set of diverse individuals aimed at capturing individual life and health circumstances and related healthcare journeys. Once these are identified we can design the ideal journey and the spaces that support them.

Why do we use personas?

Personas are used throughout many industries including Healthcare. Examine has begun to use Personas with our design teams to:

  • Immerse ourselves in the user perspective
  • Understand and develop empathy for a user
  • Address the needs and preferences across diverse users by identifying a range of user experiences through representative patients and workers
  • Consider person-environment relationship by designing experiences created by person-environment interactions instead of merely spaces

The project opportunity

We recently worked with an architectural team to expand the large MOB services of a clinic in California.

We began the personas implementation with a wayfinding charette; brainstorming the different challenges that this large, second story space would present for patient wayfinding. This led to an exploration with the team to determine how using the personas could benefit their design.


We pulled the demographic info for the region to create a persona matrix to identify representative patients across things like age, ethnicity, and family composition for this particular facility.

With the skeleton of personas in place, we developed background stories and patient journeys for each. Then, with the design team, we mapped out the journeys on floorplans, taking each persona through the campus, marking their individual paths with different colors. This part of the process really helped the designers understand the impact their work can have on users of the space.

The narratives provided a way for the designers to really empathize with the personas as opposed to having just a name and a route on a piece of paper. We were able to identify the challenges each persona would have at different locations on site. The design team was able to empathetically identify and address these challenges in the users experience to come up with solutions through the applications of thoughtful design.

The team was very receptive to the process, learning as we experimented together. They were very open in making changes to the designs based upon the evidence and the process of discovering new ways to improve the design for the users.

Visiting the architectural office several times was a definite plus. Without the face-to-face collaboration, we wouldn’t have been able to do this at the level we did. However, we also looked at a way to integrate Examine with the designer’s workflow and create a digital representation, via Revit. This was our first pass at it, and with a few modifications, I think that this is something that is doable in the future to help integrate persona journey maps into the design and layout of the space, allowing us to track layout changes and persona challenges together.

The Outcome

All of the challenges to the personas were compiled into a spreadsheet as were the corresponding design recommendations, and a presentation of this information was given to the client.

Ultimately, the results of our work with personas led to innovative, creative solutions which drove major changes to the project design. This thoughtful, patient-centered approach benefits the client, and most importantly the users.