People act out different “roles” depending on the setting. A person’s role shapes their concerns and motivates their actions. For example, a woman may be a mother, a champion poker player, a volunteer referee for a community soccer league, and a wife. When acting as a champion poker player, she is not likely to be concerned about packing lunches for the kids. When acting primarily as a wife, she will use words very different from those she would use as a referee to express her feelings to her spouse. Design outcomes are more effective if they support the role a person is playing.

Researching Role

Determining the roles people take on can help designers decide ways to create outcomes that support those roles. This research can also give designers insights that help them understand people’s responsibilities in different settings.

Questions to Ask

  • What role is this person performing at this time?
  • What internal expectations come with performing this role?
  • What expectations do others have of this person because they are performing in this role?
  • What potential conflicts is this person experiencing because they have to choose what role to play at a specific time?

Look For

  • A person’s professional obligations
  • A person’s relationships
  • The time of day/place that dictates what role a person “should” be playing



Updated: June 17, 2024 9:07 pm
grandmother with grandchild
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