Behind every successful design is a dynamic creative team, and it takes all kinds of personalities and skills to get the job done. However, the culture and expectations of a design agency are often largely centered on one outspoken, greg...
Behind every successful design is a dynamic creative team, and it takes all kinds of personalities and skills to get the job done. However, the culture and expectations of a design agency are often largely centered on one outspoken, gregarious personality. Things such as group brainstorming, on-the-fly presentations and open workspaces have become the norm in most design agencies.
But the stereotypical extrovert is just one of the personalities that make up a successful team. A lot of people who excel at and are passionate about design — specifically UX design — are actually introverts. This means that, in fostering cultures that celebrate the extrovert, design teams could be losing out on the brainpower of folks who contribute at their highest level when they have quiet and privacy to focus.
So, how can we better balance our teams and elevate extroverts and introverts alike?
As introverted UX designers ourselves, we’ve been unsurprisingly passionate about finding answers to this conundrum. So, we set out to discover just how many designers tend to be more of the Lone Ranger type, and also uncover what makes them successful, what makes them tick and how they use their introverted qualities to round out their teams and create great designs and experiences.
We also uncovered some great anecdotes and debunked a few myths along the way. We poured over findings from a survey of more than 100 people about the topic, as well as six one-on-one interviews, a group discussion (ironically) with 20 UX designers and a handful of anecdotes from some of our introverted colleagues and friends.
Our goal in speaking with introverted designers and embarking on this project was not to publish a scientific study, but rather to collect stories and share how others with such similarities use their strengths and overcome obstacles. If you find yourself to be on the extroverted end of the spectrum, we hope to illustrate for you the differences in the way your introverted team members, users and clients communicate and work, so that you might find additional ways to use those differences in skills to everyone’s advantage.
Here’s what we learned.
So, What Is An Introvert Exactly?
Although there is no concrete definition of introversion, a common observation among experts is that introverts derive energy from being in solitude and are more comfortable with less stimulation. Originally categorized by Carl Jung, an introvert is defined as a person whose interest is generally directed inward toward their own feelings and thoughts, versus the extroverted focus on the outside world.
(Image: Mike Scarano)
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (the book that inspired our article and project), Susan Cain explains that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, whereas extroverts recharge by socializing, and that “introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration.” The solitude is what introverts crave, which fosters a strong combination of creativity and persistence.
Cain’s research on introversion paints a picture of a world in which introverts not only tend to possess incredibly valuable traits, such as persistence, concentration, insight and sensitivity, but make up a powerful force of the world’s most impactful thinkers — folks like Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, Charles Darwin, Steven Spielberg and Mahatma Ghandi.
Marti Olsen Laney states in her book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World that, if allowed enough downtime, introverts can use perseverance to focus deeply, think independently and foster creativity.
If you are wondering whether you fall into the introvert category, see whether some of the following qualities cited in Susan Cain’s “Quiet Quiz” resonate with you:
You prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
You often prefer to express yourself in