UX design has been an established craft for over two decades. Yet, people are often confused about what our UX roles really mean. UX strategists, and other roles that mostly do discovery work, might get questions like “if design is in your title, shouldn’t you create more visuals?” On the other side, UX and UI designers who mostly work on the delivery side, and create a lot of mockups, might hear: “shouldn’t you spend less time in Figma?”
In this article, I will first illustrate the broad spectrum of design deliverables. It helps us understand how much variety we can find in design. It shows that it can be very demanding, almost impossible, for a single person to cover all design skills.
The second part will be dedicated to discovering personalities and how certain aspects of design might be more suitable for you than for others.
In my design leadership role, I spend a significant amount of my time supporting managers, engineers, and other roles, to understand the power of design. I help other leaders to get an idea of the diverse set of methodologies that we, as design teams, can offer.
A good approach to illustrate the design domain is by laying out the various design deliverables. We will do this by creating two axes. One axe shows whether the work focuses on delivering value for the business or for the end user. The other axe is used to define if a deliverable helps to discover a problem or if it creates a solution. We can make amazing prototypes, but they are useless if they don’t solve the right problem, or if they don’t serve the needs of the user and business.
The overview above gives a global idea of some of the work we carry out. It is obviously far from complete, but it helps us to put into perspective the different sub-domains within the UX world. We can further clarify and simplify the UX field with the following graphic:
You see where this is going. We can now visualise how the various roles within the industry relate to each other:
The famous design unicorn might be able to operate in all these segments. However, the bigger an organization, the more specialised the roles become.
We will probably have a preference for a certain sub-role within the UX domain. But which one would that be?
A handful of personality models can be used to help us understand ourselves. Obviously, they don’t paint a full picture of who we truly are, but they can give some insights into our preferences and talents.
One of the most established personality models is based on the work of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, was the first to propose the concepts of introversion and extraversion. Terms we all know these days.
Jung also came up with a function that tells us how we take in information. We are either a Sensing type (observing and details-oriented) or an Intuitive type (imaginative and big-picture-oriented).
A third function defines how we make decisions. We can be a Thinking type who uses logic to come to a conclusion. Or we can be a Feeling type, and first think about our feelings and those of others.
The fourth, and final function tells us how we organise ourselves and plan for the future. We are either a Judging type (decisive and structured) or a Perceiving type (flexible and spontaneous).
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most used personality tests. This model is built upon Jung’s theories. There are a fair few free MBTI tests available. Although the tests are reasonably accurate, they don’t guarantee that they’ll give you the right results. You can nevertheless try for yourself. 16personalities.com has an easy-to-use free test available.
If you are a Feeling type, it doesn’t mean that you don’t think. It just means that you prioritise feelings. In reality, we possess all characteristics of the model. We have logic and feelings. We use our senses and our imagination. We nevertheless apply these functions in the preferred order, a so-called cognitive function stack. This means that you have functions that are very well developed, but also functions that you might naturally neglect.
We have the ability to use our internal mind (introversion) and also live in the world around us (extroversion).
Our cognitive stack contains all functions. Two of them are introverted and two are extroverted. For an introverted person, the first and third functions will be introverted. The second and forth extroverted.
Let me narcissistically use myself as an example. I am an INFP: introvert, intuition, feeling, perceiving. My cognitive stack is therefore:
- Dominant: Introverted Feeling
- Auxiliary: Extroverted Intuition
- Tertiary: Introverted Sensing
- Inferior: Extroverted Thinking
Everyone instinctively prefers to use the dominant function. This one is thus very well developed. We naturally try to avoid our inferior function. This one is often underdeveloped. But, if we are aware of it, we can work on improving it.
Find out your cognitive function stack here, if you already know your MBTI personality.
Let’s review the various cognitive functions and discover which ones are suitable for specific design domains and methodologies. It might sound obvious, but I will state it anyway… No personality is better than another. They all have their strengths and their flaws. You might think that some functions suit the design world better, but if you want to have a diverse and well-balanced design team, all functions have their place.
It’s in the name… Sensing people prefer to use their five senses over their imagination. This allows them to accurately process the information they see, hear, or feel. For them, the physical world is more important and relatable than that what can’t be seen: the imaginary. Sensing people are mostly focused on the here and now. They have a good memory of details.
The drawback for sensing types is that speaking about abstract ideas and metaphors can be challenging. Communicating with Intuitive types requires practice. Their imaginary skills can be underdeveloped, so coming up with groundbreaking ideas is usually not their strength.
INTROVERTED SENSING (ISTJ & ISFJ)
– The detail-spotting researcher
Introverted people prefer to live introspectively. They spend a lot of time in their own thoughts. If you combine this introversion with strong sensing skills, you get someone who can observe the world really well, and afterwards internally process what’s been observed. They can think for a significant amount of time about what they’ve witnessed.
Sensing introverts focus on the details of their observations, and on their memory. This makes them really suitable to conduct UX research. They observe and analyse all the small details that occur during a test. They are able to process these observations into detailed, reliable reports.
Being so aware of the tangible world makes them also great UI designers, especially when a design system is already in place. Design systems allow them to focus on the components that already exist. Not on those that have to be created out of nothing. They will see all the pixel inconsistencies.
Introvert sensors are usually drawn to the past and tradition… To the things they’ve experienced. They are practical and realistic. Past experiences can be so strongly stored in their memory that they can use this as a predictor for the future. This means that small personal events can become a stronger argument than well-established factors. Introvert sensors like their routine. Change is hard to cope with.
Like most introverts, they are independent and prefer to work alone.
If you need a calm person that sees details no one else sees, find an introverted sensing type.
Famous introvert sensors:
- Pam Beasly (the office) / Mike Ehrmantraut (breaking bad) / Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory)
– Methodological and grounded
- Bob Ross / Rupi Kaur / Jim Davies (Garfield comic strip)
– Exception at interpreting the real world and transferring it into written or visual arts
- Jeff Bezos / Tim Cook / Warren Buffett / Daymond John
– Excellent at independently analysing the reality of the market
EXTROVERTED SENSING (ESTP & ESFP)
– The Design Evangelist
The extroverted counterpart of the sensor also prefers to use sensory input, but in an extroverted way. They focus on how their surroundings “sense”. They often care about how others perceive them.
Their extroverted qualities help with having an understanding of the group of people around them. This makes them great showmen or presenters. They are usually confident and take criticism easily.
Extroverted sensors are drawn to action to stimulate their senses. They are good at recognising patterns and trends in the physical world. Like most extroverts, quick thinking is a strength but can make them impulsive. They can rapidly process and interpret sensory information.
Deep thinking can be a challenge for extroverted sensors. They are easily distracted.
They can be excellent workshop or focus group facilitators, keynote speakers, or product managers. They can be great team leads for teams that need direction and encouragement. Engaging with others and being persuasive is their strength.
If you need someone who gets other people to buy into a product direction, the extroverted sensor is your person.
Famous extrovert sensors:
- Hugh Hefner (Playboy) / Richard Brandson / Joe Rogan
– Confident and convincing. Many politicians are extrovert sensors
- Michael Scott & David Brent (the Office) / Rachel Green (Friends) / Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wallstreet)
– Impulsive and persuasive
- Miley Cyrus / Madonna / Elton John / Machine Gun Kelly
– Slightly vain and knows how to entertain a crowd
Intuitive people are oriented towards the future. They are the people that ask “what if?” Imagination is their strength and thus see opportunities in most situations. Intuitive people naturally try to make connections between different domains. They usually prefer to focus on big-picture ideas.
They often prefer to speak in metaphors. They also might not go into details enough. “Marketing team… uhhh, our product is in the news now. we need to strike while the iron is hot. Let’s bring home this bacon!”
“Wut???” Sensing people can have a hard time understanding their intuitive colleagues.
INTROVERTED INTUITION (INTJ, INFJ)
– The feature explorer
Introverted intuitive people use their own minds to explore the world. They have a rich imagination. They can be more comfortable with their own thought processes than with the external world. These people often like fantasy books and games. This allows them to feed their internal imagination.
Introverted intuitive people can be more interested in the theoretical aspects of life rather than the practical. They are often reflective thinkers who value their own insights. They prefer to focus on one specific subject and explore all the opportunities within this domain.
These characteristics make them great product designers in companies that require a lot of independent work. You can easily give them a specific area in an app (like the checkout process) and expect them to have considered all the possible options. They excel in independent ideation.
The danger for these people is that they can get so deeply lost in their own thoughts that they can overthink. Thinking can be more comfortable than creating, so productivity can be challenging.
If you need someone who can fully explore the potential of a certain concept, you might need to find an introvert intuitive.
Famous introverted intuitive people:
- Stephen Hawking / Simone de Beauvoir / Plato / Nikola Tesla
– Many scientists and philosophers spend most of their time reflecting and come up with groundbreaking concepts
- Mark Zuckerberg / Elon Musk / Daniel Ek (Spotify)
– You might wonder if their imagination isn’t drifting away from reality from time to time
- Kendrick Lamar / John Coltrane / Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
– pushed a specific genre in music forward by exploring all the edges of the genre
- Walter White (Breaking Bad) / Beth Garmon (the Queen’s Gambit) / Dr. Gregory House (House)
– Being able to come up with their own theories and strategies without being influenced by others
EXTROVERTED INTUITION (ENTP, ENFP)
– The ideator
Extroverted intuition is all about exploring unfamiliar territories. Extroverted means outward-facing and is thus directed towards the outer world. Where introverted intuitive people prefer to discover everything in one domain, their extroverted peers prefer to dive into many subjects, but less deeply. These people often like to travel to stimulate their curiosity.
Ideation is natural for people with this function. Being able to tap into many domains, and being able to connect seemingly unrelated concepts, make them idea-generators. As UX designers, they master gathering input from multiple stakeholders and combining them into one balanced design. They can conduct competitor benchmarks and map many ideas from unrelated products.
Extroverted intuitive people are usually big-picture thinkers. They like to set directions and make educated guesses about future events. They might create great innovative low- or high-fidelity designs that change the direction of the product. However, they can struggle to complete all the details of a design.
They will get bored and are already with their head with something new they would like to explore.
Extroverted intuitive people can jump to conclusions without fully analysing the situation. They should be paired with Sensing or Thinking people to keep them on track.
If you need a great variety of ideas to broaden your horizon, you need extrovert intuitive people.
Famous extroverted intuitive people:
- Jim Halper / Saul Goodman / Tyrion Lannister
– Always full of wild ideas and quickly distracted
- Ada Lovelace / Tomas Edison / Leonardo da Vinci / Benjamin Franklin
– Jack-of-all-trades who discovered a great variety of domains
- Frank Zappa / Gwen Stefani / Jack White
– Artistic geniuses who make every record a search for a sound that didn’t exist before
Thinkers use an analytical approach to their decision-making. Logic is their best friend. They are objective and rational when deciding and they live an organised, efficient, and goal-oriented life.
Head over heart. For thinkers, emotions are a distraction and should be taken out of the decision-making process. For feelers, emotions are valid data points.
Empathising with the feelings of others can be a challenge for thinkers. This results in feeling types seeing them sometimes as detached and unemotional.
INTROVERTED THINKING (ISTP, INTP)
The quantitive analyst
Introverted thinkers are independent. They use their own analytical and logical approach to understand and analyse complex systems. They prefer to not rely on one source. They dive into various studies, statistics, and documents. This allows them to come up with their own logical theories. They often love to challenge conventions.
Empathy or creativity might not be their primary strengths. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be great design team members.
Because they love to look at logic and facts, they are very competent data analysts. You can expect them to deliver meticulous quantitative research, including flawless surveys and elaborate reports. Just be aware that the reports could focus too much on the data, and not on the message.
Analysing the design operations, and optimising how design integrates with Agile and the rest of the organization, is also something that is within their strengths. As well as maintaining a research library, and design system, or managing the design and research tools and licences.
If you need something accurate, introverted thinkers can be your hero.
Famous introverted thinking people:
- Jack Bauer (24) / Angus MacGyver / James Bond
– Highly analytical independent problem solvers
- Bill Gates / Sir Tim Berners-Lee / Larry Page / Sabine Hossenfelder
– Technical masterminds that changed the world with their logic
- Marie Curie / Albert Einstein / Charles Darwin
– Reflective logical thinkers that challenged conventions
- Miles Davis / Aphex Twin / George Martin
– Meticulous detail-oriented creatives that have the patience most musicians don’t have
EXTROVERTED THINKING (ESTJ, ENTJ)
The methodology and metric ambassador
Confidence comes naturally for extroverted thinkers. They can be competitive and have a strong need to be right. They might be very outspoken in their opinions and usually don’t have issues with taking risks.
Their logical extroverted orientation makes them have the desire to organise the world around them. They like to lead and create efficiency. If they see an opportunity to create a process that would improve an organization, they will take it.
You can see where their value lies. Extroverted thinkers can excel in service design. Creating a perfect service blueprint, and involving a great variety of people, can be something that excites them.
Being influential is their second talent. They can be seen as decisive and assertive. Extroverted thinkers usually speak the boardroom language, so if you find people with this character who strongly believe in design, they can take your design maturity to the next level. They can convince the CEO to invest more in design.
Extroverted thinkers need to be careful not to be too critical and judgmental of others.
If your design team is a mess and doesn’t collaborate effectively with other teams, invite an extroverted thinker.
Famous extroverted thinking people:
- Dwight Schrute / Francis Underwood (House of Cards) / Don Draper (Mad Man)
– Influential and strategic (well, Dwight tries, but he is about processes and efficiency)
- Frank Sinatra / Mariah Carey / Dave Mustaine / Richard Wagner
– Charismatic and very mindful about what they are doing
- Steve Jobs / Larry Flynt / Elizabeth Holmes
– Highly analytical and persuasive
Feelers want to understand their own emotions and those of others. They make decisions based on values and consider how those decisions will affect people. Thinkers look at logic first, feelers process emotions first. Those two personalities might therefore accuse each other of either having no empathy or being overemotional.
The feeling function helps to build relationships on a deep level. People with a strong feeling function are often sensitive and compassionate. They are usually good at reading people and understanding their needs.
The feeling function can obviously be very useful in UX design. However, a danger for feelers is that they focus so much on values and emotions that they forget the business objectives.
INTROVERTED FEELING (INFP, ISFP)
– The user and ethics advocate
Introverted feelers are strongly driven by their inner emotions and values. They are often idealists and are sensitive to the emotions of other individuals, as well as their own. They can feel strong empathy for minorities.
Introverted feelers will be real ambassadors for their users. Their natural empathy makes them mindful of the users’ pain points. Getting a good understanding of the user’s feelings is their strength.
They have to watch out that they don’t absorb the user’s emotions too much. They want to see all the issues resolved. Something that’s hardly possible in the tech product world. They should not feel guilty about this.
Introvert feelers can be deeply hurt by conflict and disagreement. They are self-critical but are also overthinkers. They can also be very effective conflict managers, as they are able to understand different points of view.
An introvert feeler can be valuable as either a UX researcher or an interaction designer. They know how to understand the user and can translate their struggles into reports or solutions. Many introvert feelers have issues expressing themselves verbally. They might find it easier to write down their choices or to present a mockup that tells their thoughts. Their desire to protect minorities makes them strong advocates for accessibility.
Colleagues might need to remind the introvert feeler that there should be a balance between user needs and business objectives.
Famous introverted feeling people:
- George Orwell / Virginia Woolf / Jean-Jacques Rousseau / Franz Kafka
– Idealistic writers who explore social injustice and society
- Van Gogh / Pablo Picasso / Frank Loyd Wright
– Creatives who are better at expressing their emotions through visual art
- Thom Yorke / Björk / Kurt Cobain / Kevin Parker (Tame Impala)
Sensitive musicians who can emotionally touch people with their sincere music
- Daenerys Targaryen / Grover (Sesame Street) / Ally McBeal
– Independent thinkers with a bit too much self-pity
EXTROVERTED FEELING (ENFJ, ESFJ)
– The workshop wizard
Where introverted feelers care about the feeling of individuals, extroverted feelers focus on how the group feels as a whole. Harmony is what is important to them. This makes them great team players and collaborators.
Extroverted feelers can be very good at workshop facilitating or hosting a focus group. They sense the atmosphere in the room and are able to adapt and make the group feel at ease. Their energetic personality is not designed to work in solitude. They can be great team leads as they are also great at expressing themselves.
Their warm personality focuses on making others feel comfortable. Because they care so much about the group, they might find it hard to make tough decisions, because this might change the dynamics of the group. They have to watch out that they are not pleasing others at their own expense.
Famous extroverted feeling people:
- Tina Turner / John Bon Jovi / Bono / Anthony Kiedis / Ed Sheeran
– Making an audience feel energetic and happy
- Tinky Winky / Emeli (in Paris) / Derek Noakes (Ricky Gervais)
– Wanting to be surrounded by other people in harmony
- Oprah Winfrey / Andrew Carnegie / Maxima (Dutch Queen)
– Having the desire to give people something meaningful