I'm not certain if this is the "norm" or more of my quirky need to do everything backwards, but my characters generally come to me personality first. Like a Facebook profile with insightful posts and a manga character as a profile picture (who does that anyway...wait...I do that *blush*). This is especially true for the characters who pop into my head and offer an incorporeal hand, saying some version of, "'Sup?" (Don't tell, but these guys are more fun...I loves me some spontaneity).
Then there are the guys I have to coax into being.
The process usually starts with a role that needs filling: warrior, pack leader, priestess, slave, mate, queen, king, etc.
If that doesn't elicit a response from the ole neurons, I go further. "What are the stereotypical traits of this role? Which of those do I want to keep? Which of them need dumping to make this role work for this series of events?"
If I don't have anything by this point, I give the character a "code name." So an undeveloped warrior becomes WName in the manuscript with a note to later describe him (or her). Sometimes I only know what I need once the other characters show me where the gap is. Many on-the-fly people have arisen because of this need.
Assuming the brain storming session bore fruit, I then get into the fun part: Why?
Why does the woman-hating, female warrior who could kill a dragon at 50 paces with a kitchen knife secretly write poetry and make charcoal drawings of the countryside?
See? The fun part.
Only then do I pay attention to looks. As I see it, the outward appearance is fluid. If you want to change a personality, it's going to take some work. Going back to the Facebook analogy, it's like digesting a page of insightful posts before checking out the "Photos of Me" link.
I suppose I do this because I secretly (and not so secretly) believe my own personality is amazing, but my picture...not so much.
This quirk of mine might also be why I've fallen into the trap of creating lots of beautiful people with minor cosmetic "flaws" and gaping wounds in their spirits.
Media would have us believe "beautiful, thin" people are constantly happy (bogus) and "unattractive, fat" people are constantly miserable (also bogus). So I added my own twist. I have trouble creating a truly positive character with a truly positive outlook and past, so miserable beautiful people it is.