Representing older people: towards meaningful images of the user in design scenarios

  • Mark BlytheEmail author
  • Andy Dearden
Long Paper


Designing for older people requires the consideration of a range of design problems, which may be related to difficult and sometimes highly personal matters. Issues such as fear, loneliness, dependency, and physical decline may be hard to observe or discuss in interviews. Pastiche scenarios and pastiche personae are techniques that employ characters to create a space for the discussion of new technological developments and user experience. This paper argues that the use of fictional characters can help to overcome restrictive notions of older people by disrupting designers’ prior assumptions. In this paper, we reflect on our experiences using pastiche techniques in two separate technology design projects that sought to address the needs of older people. In the first pastiche scenarios were developed by the designers of the system and used as discussion documents with users. In the second pastiche personae were used by groups of users themselves to generate scenarios which were scribed for later use by the design team. We explore how the use of fictional characters and settings can generate new ideas and undercut the potential in scenarios, for weak characterisation of “the user” to permit scenario writers to fit characters to technology rather than vice versa. To assist in future development of pastiche techniques in designing for older people, we provide an array of fictional older characters drawn from literary and popular culture.


Pastiche scenarios Pastiche personae Experience-centred design Conceptual design Participatory design 



We would like to acknowledge the constructive input we have received from: Peter Wright, Christopher Power, Helen Petrie, Ann Light, the editors of this special issue and the anonymous reviewers of the paper. We would like to thank all the participants in the DATES project and the Net Neighbours project who have contributed to the development of these ideas. This work was supported by the EPSRC research grant GR/S70326/01 Theory & method for experience-centred design and AHRC research grant AH/E507441/1, Practical design for social action.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Communication and Computing Research CentreSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

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