User Research + Persona Development: Getty Research Institute

Getty Research Institute Personas

Client: The Getty Research Institute
Project: User Research + Persona Development + Design Thinking Bootcamp
Location: Los Angeles, CA


The Getty Research Institute (GRI) is dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts through its exhibitions, publications, digital resources, library, and residential scholars programs.

The GRI has embarked on an ambitious, large-scale project to reimagine and redesign one of the its most valued and long-standing resources, the Getty Provenance Index. The Provenance Index is a set of databases that offer free online access to source material for research on the history of collecting and art markets.

The Provenance Index was created in the 1980s and, while it is regarded as one of the world’s most important and trusted resources for researching the provenance of artworks, it is in need of a conceptual, technical, and visual overhaul to increase its accessibility and usability.

The team leading this complex initiative engaged Designing Insights to conduct user research to ground the project in user needs and inform the user interface design of the next generation of the tool.


Getty Provenance Index PersonasOur approach involved an intensive two-day design thinking workshop for the core project team, followed by extensive user research, the creation of user personas, and the delivery of a final report outlining high-level findings, key themes, and user pain points.

Our two-day design thinking workshop introduced the team to design thinking tools and methods, brought the group together to build stakeholder buy-in and enthusiasm, and provided the group with a common language around and shared understanding of user needs.

We then conducted 15 in-depth ethnographic interviews and observational sessions with users and developed and designed user personas. Personas are fictional yet-realistic and representative archetypes based on composite data and observed patterns of behaviors, interests, goals, attitudes, and motivations.


The resulting Getty Provenance Index personas contain stories of users and their day-to-day joys and frustrations with art historical research and writing, their use of the Provenance Index and other digital resources, and their daily professional lives. Our personas and the accompanying report informed the design and content development for the new public user interface and new HTML webpages of the Getty Provenance Index.


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