Goal-directed design and personas are staples in the product design handbook. While design tools and methods used are constantly evolving, the concept of a persona has largely remained the same since it was first popularized in 1999 in Alan Cooper’s book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. Alan Cooper’s list of accomplishments is long: he’s the “Father of Visual Basic” and co-founded Cooper, the storied business strategy and interaction design consultancy where goal-directed design and personas were born. In December, we spent an afternoon with the team at Cooper’s San Francisco office (they also have a location in New York). We wanted to learn how they apply these methods today, how their process has developed, and the challenges they face as the industry itself continues to change.
Cooper’s offices are located in downtown San Francisco and take up the entire 8th floor of the building. Matt and I walked off the elevator and were greeted by a large Cooper mural on the wall made out of recycled computer keys. We were met by Andrew Kaufteil, Cooper’s Director of Engagement, who gave us a quick tour of the office and explained who we would be talking to. About half of the space was open-concept with desks throughout, which then narrowed down to a hallway with breakout rooms--or “war rooms” as the team at Cooper refers to them. There was also large kitchen stocked full of snacks and then the hallway continued into more war rooms, meeting rooms, and a large classroom space where the team runs workshops under their Cooper U initiative.