UX Confessions – Does A UX Personality Type Exist?

As a UX researcher, I am constantly looking for patterns. Can we define a UX personality type? What attributes help UXers do their job on a daily basis? Has this job shaped their personality? I organized a loose discussion with three of my teammates to learn more.

Once upon a time, three young people wanted to change career path. At UX studio, Luca Morovián and Rui Ramalhete work as designers and Ági Kiss as a researcher in UX. They each have taken an interesting road.

Their personality traits helped them during this journey, and they also changed themselves. They agreed to share some bits of their stories to help answer the question: does an ideal UX personality type exist?

Agi, Luca and Rui

1. How did you become UXers?

I wondered how and why did these three decide to jump into UX? Had they always aimed to?

Rui: “I was studying economics in high school and didn’t like it that much. One day when I was 17, my sister saw me creating a presentation for class. She realized something artistic in me as I prepared the slides with care, made them beautiful. I paid much more attention to that than the actual contents.

A few weeks later, she took me to her workplace, a publishing office, to see the graphic designers at work. It fascinated me! I thought, ‘Okay, I definitely want to do this instead of economics.’ I started over with arts and have never worked in anything else since.”

Ágnes: “My story is a bit different. I was working as a researcher on social marketing campaigns that helped people avoid road death. I wanted to change career path, so I started applying for different positions. During an interview, they asked me whether I knew anything about UX research. I didn’t have a clue about it at the time it, but somehow it caught my attention. Then after the interview, I started reading about the subject, and I felt it really close to me and my personality. That’s how it all began.”

Luca: “I always had a problem calling myself a designer. I studied special education and disability studies, so I always felt like a cheater. I thought ‘I’m doing it for fun, but I’m not a real one’.

I’d already worked as a UX designer when I was invited to a meetup titled ‘I am a designer’, with big names invited. The first speaker was Miklos Kiss, a famous Hungarian designer – and I came after him. I felt very anxious, thinking to myself: ‘Who would be interested in me after his presentation?’ I tried to relax and somehow I managed to finish my presentation.

After the presentations came a panel discussion, and to my utter surprise, people were most interested in me! Maybe they could relate to my story more than the others’, I don’t know. There, I thought ‘Okay, maybe I’m a designer’.”

UX Personality Luca "I am a designer"
The fact that people found Luca’s presentation on being a designer interesting opened her eyes.

2. What parts of your personality helped you become a UXer?

They all started with UX as a second choice, as if they had somehow slid into UX along the way. So, in my quest to understand what makes a UX personality, I wanted to find out more about how their characteristics relate to this job.

Rui: “I know it sounds weird, but it was stress. I really stress out about a lot of things. As a user, a bad experience with a product or service really makes me angry and discouraged to try it anymore. If I try to use something and it fails, I stop using it after two seconds and go for a better product that deserves my time. I wanted to do something about this problem. I wanted to make products that actually work well.”

Luca: “To me, accepting that everyone experiences things differently was very hard but liberating at the same time. I had had the opportunity to teach children with disabilities, and there I had to learn that some people see the whole world completely differently! I learned that it works like that in UX design as well: you cannot design something that only you think works – you need to accept that it does not necessarily work for others.”

“Your version of reality makes up only one little part of the whole world.”

Ágnes: “It was a process for me. Three interesting things have always held true about me as a person:

  1. Motivation to explore new, even small things.
  2. Sufficient curiosity to look at what lies behind certain phenomena.
  3. Applying what I learned in practice.

I’d had them in me before, and it thought, ‘Hey, UX is a field I could use these in’. And I was right.”

UX Personality Agnes Kiss teaching
Now a true expert at her job, Ági also likes passing on her knowledge to others interested in UX.

3. How has this job shaped your personality?

My final question dealt with how working in user experience design had helped them improve their skills, personality, and everyday life. Is the UX personality made rather than innate?

Ági: “Patience is the most important thing that I have learned. Before I became a UX researcher I was really impatient. I was rushing in every conversation, saying ‘go, go, go!’  inside my head. Now I’m different. I take my time to understand.

“The mind-blowing parts of a conversation come when you pay attention and listen calmly.”

I also learned ‘ultimate answers’ to every question do not exist. I had always thought that if I finally found a solution for something, that it’s the right one. If I found it, I won’t need to think much, just start applying it. But there are multiple paths you can go down and none are perfect. You need to take time and evaluate them.”

Luca: “I always had problems with not knowing everything. I used to get easily frustrated when something went unplanned. Here at UX studio, I needed to accept that we have very little knowledge of a subject when starting a new project, and that’s OK. There’s no need to freak out because we’ll learn new things along the way. Fortunately, I started using this ‘knowing of not knowing’ approach in my real life as well. I try new things, I learn – and realize that nothing bad happens if I don’t know it all at first.”

Rui: “I learned a lot about communication. I used to talk only when I needed to. Doing this job had a great effect on my communication skills because I have to do it on a daily basis with clients. I learned that everything I want to communicate can be summarized and divided into smaller chunks of information. This way, others don’t get bored and I only talk about what’s really important. Now, talking to strangers or giving a presentation comes much easier to me.”

UX Personality Rui retreat
Rui is the life and soul of our team retreats!

Conclusion: does a “UX personality type” exist?

My colleagues’ insights showed that no such thing as one “UX personality” exists. UX forms a way of thinking that comes with the notion that we don’t know everything and we need to communicate openly in order to find the best solutions for problems.

One common trait these three UXers all share, they have managed to take a lot away from this job – they have learned things that can be used in other fields of their lives. When it comes to working UX, personality matters only to the extent that you should be able to acquire this mindset; everything else can come with time.

Thanks, Ági, Luca and Rui for taking the time to help me out! 🙂

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Have some thoughts on the article? Make sure to leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you!

UX Researcher fascinated by human nature. Also skier on the sarcastic slopes and time management warrior off duty.
  • Josephine

    Well, I was hoping for more of a grounded conversation about personality, personality theory, and related psychometrics, which the article’s title seemed to hint at. Are you sure you did not write the title as a bit of click-bait, perhaps? Anyway, I suspect that if you were to give those of us in the UX field a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you would likely find that many of us are iNutitive and Thinking (NT) types. That is the combination, the NT combination, associated with those of us who are interested in science. Many people with the NT combination are found in the STEM professions, according to what I’ve been told by someone is certified to administer the official MBTI. It seems to me that, in order to be a good UX researcher or designer, one needs to have good foundational knowledge in understanding, and applying, the scientific method. Moreover, I generally consider UX research to be a specialty within the more general field of social sciences research, employing any of a number of methods, quantitative and/or qualitative, that social scientists use. I’m not surprised that one of the people mentioned in the article, who had a social science research background, was asked if she knew anything about UX or UX research. It seems like a very natural and appropriate question to ask. I cringe when I hear people associate UX with art. Our field has much more to do with science, the methods of science, an understanding of experimenter bias, a commitment to objectivity, and a willingness to be ungrounded in one’s own experience, being willing to see things from someone else’s point of view, to gain insight. That is what social science researchers, and good UX practitioners, do.

    • Josephine,
      I agree with your comment about the title. I was expecting the same type of information to learn more about personality types and their relation to UX professionals.
      Your detailed comment is very interesting. You mentioned N, T, STEM and MBTI.
      Can you pls refer to relevant sources explaining those terms?

    • Sarah Elizabeth Dennis

      Empathy is a well known trait that is essential for UX design, this isn’t a very well known characteristic found in abundance in NT types. I would counter and say UX roles best suit NF types followed by highly developed NT types.