Few things inspire designers more than studying the greats who’ve gone before them. When it comes to user experience (UX) design, you can explore many talented individuals.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 197,100 web developers and digital designers. The industry grows at a 23% rate, which is much faster than the average of all professions.
Not all web developers are UX professionals, so the number is likely in the tens of thousands. The lower number of specialist designers still gives you plenty of potentially inspiring people. We’ve chosen 10 famous UX designers we find particularly uplifting.
1. Steve Krug
Known as a UX consultant, Steve Krug is a good UX designer to follow. He regularly posts to his website, offering tips and advice about designing usable sites. He’s also the author of “Don’t Make Me Think,” with rules for creating simple and intuitive websites. You may also enjoy reading his second book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. His approach to design is user-centric, stressing that products should be self-explanatory and easy to use.
Krug spent over 25 years as a usability coach and worked with corporations such as Apple, NPR and Bloomberg.com. His teachings have inspired countless designers, making him a key figure in the world of UX. If you’d like to follow more of Steve Krug’s UX methods, consider giving him a follow on X – Twitter @skrug.
Wroblewski is known as one of the top software developers and thought leaders on the internet today. He worked at designing Yahoo and is an expert in micro mobile interactions. Since more and more people access the internet via their smartphones, his expertise is invaluable. He has designed and created various types of software that people all over the world use today.
He’s written numerous UX and UI design courses and published several books on usability, including Mobile First. This book is brief, but it gives you all the information needed to know about the role of mobile-first in website and application design. Today, he is a Product Director at Google and is an expert in looking at the big picture of web design.
Wroblewski is active on LinkedIn, posting numerous tips and insights about UX design.
3. Andy Budd
Mr. Budd is one of the top speakers on the topic of usability. He is also a prominent figure in the UX and web design community and has influenced digital design through his work with top brands. Known as the creator of Silverback, a usability testing app, he also helped create the Web Standards movement.
He’s a regular speaker at design conferences, sharing insights on user experience, design strategy and digital transformation. In addition to writing and speaking on UX principles, Budd offers coaching to upcoming designers and businesses.
He’s the founder of the influential UK design agency Clearleft and has worked with BBC and Penguin Books. Budd has led design teams for over the last 15 years and has solidified his position as a go-to expert for designers.
4. Yael Levey
Levey has over a decade of experience in UX best practices and has a background in shaping user experiences for major platforms. She has a YouTube channel with the same name as her site, “I Am Not My Pixels.” As an avid blogger, she has a passion for helping younger designers understand what it takes to create stellar experiences for users.
She’s worked for BBC and Cancer Research UK. At BBC, Yael was involved in refining digital products, ensuring they were user-friendly and of high standards. She currently works for Facebook as a Product Design Manager for Whatsapp. At Meta, she leverages her skills to focus on creating intuitive and engaging experiences for millions of users.
5. Don Norman
We wouldn’t even have the term “user experience” without Don Norman. He is arguably one of the top modern influential famous UX designers.
His varied background helps him bring some rich perspectives to anything he creates or teaches. As a university professor, he often told his students they must design for real people. He is also a speaker and author.
His formal education as an electrical engineer and psychologist undoubtedly gives him some insight into both the way things work and the human psyche. You’ve likely heard of the Nielsen Norman Group. He is one of the founders and strived to help companies create better websites and services by researching consumers’ needs.
Take the time to study Norman’s writing and lessons to grasp designing in the real world.
6. Bill Buxton
Mr. Buxton considers himself a champion for consideration of humans in the implementation of new products and technologies. He is one of the top researchers for Microsoft Research and owns a Toronto design firm.
Buxton was a composer and performer. He even designed his own instruments and served as an artist in residence at the University of Toronto. He then returned to school to learn computer science and still teaches at the university today.
Buxton serves on numerous boards and looks at the UX of everything from films to websites. You can learn untold amounts of information from Buxton because he’s a wealth of a diverse collection of data.
7. Laura Klein
Klein is known as a Lean UX powerhouse. Her published works include “UX for Lean Startups” and “Build Better Products.” She is active on Twitter and shares tips and opportunities for other famous UX designers.
Her blog features advanced tips for fellow designers. For example, she shared task flow charts and how to build one to create a better process for users. She also shares podcasts and videos on her site.
8. Irene Au
Ms. Au is a former head designer for Google. She’s known for her interactive design prowess. Au is an expert in building teams and mentoring younger designers. In addition to her work with Google, she’s also led design teams in UX for Yahoo, Netscape and Udacity.
She’s currently an operating partner with Khosla Ventures and works in conjunction with portfolio companies to improve their designs.
Neeman is the brains behind UsabilityCounts.com. He serves as the Senior Director of UX at Knowable. He worked with Apptio and Jobvite, where he helped them win a Webby Award and the Deloitte What Works award.
Neeman also served as a UX consultant for Microsoft and worked on prelaunch for Orbitz. Some other brands he’s worked with are MySpace, Realtor.com, Move.com, Paramount, Stamps.com, Disney, Paul Mitchell and eBay.
He regularly speaks to corporations and students about UX. He posts tips and resources on his Twitter profile regularly.
10. Aarron Walter
Mr. Walter wrote the book “Designing for Emotion” and focuses his time and energy on teaching others how to attract users to your website. He’s the senior design lead at Resolve to Save Lives. He’s worked with InVision, MailChimp and given advice to the White House, US Department of State and Fortune 500 companies.
He runs a podcast titled “The Design Better Podcast,” which is a finalist for the Shorty Awards and boasts over one million listens.
11. Farai Madzima
Farai Madzima is a UX designer for Shopify and is a huge advocate for inclusive design. He was born in Zimbabwe but has worked with teams in the UK, Canada and South Africa over the last 18 years.
His specialty is understanding local cultures to craft user-centric experiences. As a speaker, he has shared valuable insights into the intersection of culture, design and business. He’s also the organizer of Pixel Up!. This UX conference series is hosted in South Africa, a meetup for designers to connect with others from around the world.
Before becoming a UX manager at Shopify, Madzima helped build many successful banking apps across South Africa. Today, he challenges designers to think beyond conventional Western-centric design principles and to consider diverse user backgrounds.
12. Whitney Hess
Whitney Hess is a UX designer and coach with a mission to humanize technology. Her approach takes on traditional design and spreads teachings about empathy, self-awareness and personal growth. She believes these elements in UX design are the foundation of creating meaningful experiences.
Hess is also a true believer in understanding oneself as much as the user to create impactful designs. As a coach and mentor, she’s guided countless designers and organizations toward more holistic and empathetic UX design. Her writings and talks often address the deeper aspects of the design process — she teaches professionals to consider the emotional and human elements.
13. Kim Goodwin
Kim Goodwin is an expert in UX with over 25 years of experience in user research and design. Her book, Designing for the Digital Age, is an insightful guide on the design process and is widely regarded as a must-read for designers. She reveals her secrets to the successful building of user-centered products and services. Additionally, she shares online publications for UX designers to learn from and follow.
While Kim’s expertise falls in line with creating user-oriented products — she’s also deeply involved in setting up collaborative team environments for producing their best work. Through her workshops and lectures, she stresses the importance of business strategy and building empathetic design leaders.
Inspiration Is Everywhere
The famous UX designers listed above give you a nice mix of options. You’ll learn something different from each one to apply to your work. However, don’t rule out the experienced designer at work who has tips and tricks to teach you. Remember your professors when you’ve taken design classes and reach out for ideas on books to read.
Designers must stay up on the current trends and build their skills over time. Look for opportunities to learn from others and add elements to your portfolio you didn’t have before.