Character Map Canvas

The Character Map Canvas is a Creative Empathy tool, designed to help understand people’s objectives, obstacles, and motivations. It’s an alternative to personas.


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The Character Map Canvas by The Greatness Studio, updated on 4 April 2023


The canvas provides a visual framework for mapping a character’s main hallmarks. It’s great to use alone but works best in a multidisciplinary workshop setting.

You can use this canvas digitally or plot it as a large poster for use with sticky notes. And while it’s helpful to converge research insights into one character, there are two important things to keep in mind.

Evidence is Key

First, no matter which framework you use to create your character, it must be based on real evidence. Otherwise, instead of articulating customers’ needs and desires, it will articulate your (team’s) own biased assumptions.

Stories Bring Characters to Life

Second, this is a great format for collecting thoughts, but sticky notes on a canvas won’t provoke empathy in people. You need stories for that.


For example, imagine we’re working on a service that coaches people start and run a business from home. After conducting a number of interviews and observation studies, we create this character: Farah.

The Character Map Canvas by The Greatness Studio, Farah Example updated on 4 April 2023
Here’s what the Character Map Canvas could look like after a workshop.


Farah works as an animator at a digital agency but isn’t happy there. She lives in an apartment in the city, with her girlfriend and 2 kids.


I want to run my own business from home.


  • I don’t know where to start.
  • Business school is not an option for me.
  • I’m not familiar with the legal stuff.
  • I’m afraid to quit my job.
  • I have difficulties organizing my time.


  • I’m a great animator with lots of experience.
  • I’m not rich, but I have some savings.


If I succeed:

  • I’ll be truly independent for the first time.
  • I’ll spend more time with my girlfriend & kids.

If I don’t succeed:

  • I’d be stuck in a job I don’t like.
  • I’d get burned out soon.
  • My kids would grow up without me.

We can see Farah’s obstacles and opportunities as her ‘pains’ and gains,’ respectively. They’re her requirements for what value our business service should provide.

But her motivation gives us insight into why Farah wants to start a business. For her, it’s a matter of family relationships and mental health.

This knowledge can help us optimize our messaging and content design to fit her frame of mind. And it can inspire us when expanding the service, so we can address some of Farah’s related needs.

For example, we could provide guidance around self-care and time management. Or we could include tips for how to deal with kids barging in on a video meeting.

Is It Working for You?

I’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback! Send me an e-mail and let me know what you think 😃

Creative Empathy

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Creative Empathy is a toolkit for connecting with people’s deepest needs in any creative project.

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