9 UX Designers Who Challenge Us All to Be Better Designers

Posted on August 21, 2018 | Updated on December 8, 2020

Have you ever wished you could be a better designer? One of the best ways to learn about design is to study the top designers in the industry. For this article, we’re going to look at UX designers — specifically, which ones throw down the gauntlet and scream that we need to be better UX designers ourselves.

UX designers offer a skill set you don’t necessarily see in other types of design. They care about the user’s overall experience, so while they want the design to look aesthetically pleasing, they also care more about how that design works for the user than how beautiful it is.

The best UX designers offer both beauty and function. Here are nine UX designers who will inspire you to be better than you ever thought possible:

1. Scott Jenson

Scott Jenson has an impressive background in UX technology. As the first member hired to work in Apple’s system software human interface group in the late 80s, he has also worked for heavyweights like Netscape, American Express and Google. If that doesn’t make you sit up and take notice, the fact that he’s designed three different mobile phone user interfaces and been through five Newton product cycles should. While his design work isn’t something you might see in the forefront of these products, the fact that he keeps the entire user experience in mind and figures out how the program works for their benefit makes him a leader in UX design and UX topics.

2. Luke Wroblewski

Luke Wroblewski came up with the smart UX concept of designing for a small, mobile screen and then working up from there, instead of cramming a big screen into a small one. His work history includes eBay, Yahoo and Polar, which he founded and later sold to Google. He also wrote web design books titled “Mobile First” and “Web Form Design & Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability.”

3. Khoi Vinh

Khoi Vinh is a well-known graphic designer and blogger who worked as the design director for the New York Times. He’s also been named one of the 50 Most Influential Designers in America. There are some thought-provoking articles on his site about UX design, such as “What Is This Thing Called Design?”

He believes interface is how UX/UI design ties into traditional design, such as layouts like those used for posters and books. His point is essentially that good design has some basic elements that work no matter what medium you’re using.

4. David Armano

David Armano is global strategy director at Edelman. He also describes himself as a brand strategist and digital transformation professional. With more than 20 years of experience in digital branding and marketing, he can look at concepts that might or might not work in a design and come up with a plan for any business. He’s worked with companies such as eBay, Adidas and Hewlett Packard.

5. Andy Budd

Andy Budd is a UK-based UX designer. He often talks about topics such as the pros and cons of building native apps or front-end code quality and performance and how these impact the overall user experience. His company, Clearleft, is a user experience design consultant firm. In addition to his expertise in UX design, he serves as a judge for the British Interactive Media Awards.

6. Karen McGrane

Karen McGrane’s witty, snarky personality comes through across all the channels where she has a presence. Her Twitter description reads, “On a good day, I make the web more awesome. On a bad day, I just make it suck less.” She also tweets out tips for designers. Her website landing page pokes fun at placeholder copy.

Even though she is lighthearted in her approach, there is nothing lightweight about her design resume. McGrane holds a master’s from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in technical communication. She speaks and writes frequently on topics related to UX design.

7. Jane Pyle

Jane Pyle is a user experience designer for Enterprise iOS apps. She fills Twitter with tweets about good and bad design. She’ll even look at user experience for things such as scores reported during a sports game. Where is the information on the screen? What details do they provide? How could they improve the users’ experience? If you’re looking for some inspiration from the everyday world, Pyle’s UX comments are sure to give you plenty of study material.

8. Fabricio Teixeira

Fabricio Teixeira serves as the design director at Work & Co in New York, where he focuses on user-centered design. He has about 13 years of experience in digital design, and has worked on user experience for brands such as Samsung, Intel and Google.

If you visit his website, you’ll see he practices what he preaches. It’s quite simple, presenting his bio upfront. If you scroll down, you see recent press mentions. Further down the page are the places he’s worked, a list of his 46 design awards and more than 2,000 articles he has written.

The site is so simple and an outstanding example of a mobile-friendly design that looks as good on a small screen as it does in desktop mode.

9. Sarah Doody

Sarah Doody has a fresh, hip vibe that stands out from the other UX designers out there. She’s the founder of UX Notebook and offers workshops and courses on UX design. She frequently posts examples of UX-designed sites on her social media pages. Though much of her work is consulting about UX strategy, she does still take on a limited number of user experience design projects.

Building Something Better

Good UX designers build something better than an average site. They can look at all the aspects, but in particular, the way the user interacts with the site, and create a highly usable site that functions seamlessly.

Although the nine people listed above are incredibly talented and you can learn a lot just by reading their articles and studying their work, there are hundreds of skilled UX experts online. If you really want to grow and learn, seek out the ones whose designs you like and listen to what they have to say. Before you know it, you’ll become one of the top designers out there.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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