I know for a fact that Picasso or Dali would give me a nasty look for what I am about to say. But I’ll say it anyway.
UX Design is art.
And a functional tool too. But there is no denying it is a form of art.
Be it playing around with a color wheel or designing a mere button, it transcends something purely functional. There is artistry in it.
And what else can tug an artist’s heartstrings than a fellow artist?
Today, we are looking at inspirational quotes from famous UX designers (and their books), artists, and many others that just know how hard and beautiful a process it is to design.
1- “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”
Martin LeBlanc, founder and CEO of Iconfinder
Let’s start it off with one of the most famous quotes in the UX design world.
You can tell why UX/UI people printed it on t-shirts and put it on their walls in 2014. ‘Cause it’s true.
No matter the industry, user experience revolves around one unchanging element: the user.
And to please the user, you have to read their minds, come up with exactly what they want, and make sure you never have to explain what is going on.
If the user is confused, it is over. So make sure your joke lands.
2- “Nothing important should ever be more than two clicks away”
Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
If you’ve been in UX long enough, you would know that the users not only have high expectations of you but they are also pretty impatient.
And I know we can all relate to it. At the end of the day, we are all users.
It is an undeniable truth that there is a direct correlation between the number of clicks and user frustration.
Still keep in mind that it is not impossible to avoid frustration and still have users clicking through a website. It takes a genius designer, but it is possible.
3- “Certainty is a closing of the mind. To create something new you must have doubt.”
Milton Glaser, graphic designer, the guy who desgined the ‘I ♥ NY’ Logo
Knowing that you can’t achieve the unexpected inside your comfort zone, Milton Glaser has a fair point.
UX designing is all about thinking outside the box. The risk is real.
And where there is risk, there is doubt.
But as Glaser puts it, it is not necessarily something to be afraid of. It is to be celebrated. Because it shows that you are on the right path as a designer.
4- “Our goal is not to create a deliverable, it’s to change something in the world — to create an outcome.”
Jeff Gothelf, the author of Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams (yes, that Jeff Gothelf)
Design is a constant of the world that surrounds us.
So, when you are working on a design, you are inevitably changing the world ― for better, or for worse.
It is up to you as a UX designer to choose how the outcome you created will affect your product, your industry, and even the whole world.
Let’s hope you don’t start a design war 🤞
5- “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
David M. Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy&Mather, father of advertising
Remember what we said about UI being like a joke?
According to the advertising tycoon David Ogilvy, so are the best ideas.
At this point, the whole industry might be a joke 🤐 Joking, joking.
But one thing is for sure. Some jokes do turn into great ideas. You would know what I mean if you’ve seen The Social Network (2010).
Obviously, if the movie was accurate Zuckerberg didn’t have the nicest intentions in mind. But hey, it’s the perfect example of a fun little idea turning into something bigger.
6- “It’s art if it can’t be explained. It’s fashion if no one asks for an explanation. It’s design if it doesn’t need explanation.”
Wouter Stokkel, Product Lead / Business Analyst
As I said up above, design is essentially art-meets-functionality.
It is aesthetically pleasing and usable at the same time. And its biggest strength derives from exactly this.
Thanks to this combination, design becomes self-explanatory. And it is no different for UX design.
For example, imagine a simple button on a website. You know exactly what it is for thanks to its design. That’s UX design at work for you.
7- “Don’t make me think”
Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
As the title to his iconic book on web usability goes, Steve Krug’s number one advice to UX designers and other web design people is: Don’t make me think.
And in my opinion, this is one of the most powerful quotes on the list. Don’t worry, Descartes won’t be visiting your website anytime soon.
What we have at hand is a nice-looking button or a navigation bar that the user knows exactly how to use as their second nature.
Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t make them think.
8- “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.”
Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
Any UX designer or anyone who knows anything about UX design knows that there will be problems. Lots of ’em. Constantly.
And by time, UX designers grow immune to it. But let me tell you something controversial. Don’t.
As designers get used to certain problems, there arises the danger of assumption. Which leads to coming up with the wrong solution for the right problem, or worse the right solution for the wrong problem.
Don’t let the constant rain of problems faze you. Look at every issue from a critical perspective and make sure you solve the right problems with the right solutions.
9- “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never achieve it.”
Salvador Dali, crazy genius artist
This one goes out to the beginner UX designers among us. Don’t try to act like you don’t know what I mean, we know you are obsessed with perfection.
And of course, it is naturally so. What’s more, it applies to everyone. We all want to achieve the best.
But maturing in your line of work means seeing the horizon way more clearly. And what Dali says is going to be the first thing you realize once you are able to see the horizon.
There is no perfection in the creations of human beings, don’t fear not achieving it. No one can.
10- “Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”
Nir Eyal, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Habits change very rarely.
And for users, it is twice as hard to get used to something new. I remember sulking over Instagram’s new interface for quite a while, they did us dirty 😒
When users connect to old designs so much, the companies are always in search of something new. And I couldn’t blame them.
Unless they go overboard.
So, my advice as a user, and as an insider when it comes to design would be to always aspire for the new while keeping the old elements for a while.
Is an element of the UX useless? Do you need to make a change to the UI?
Let the users have time to say goodbye.
Get rid of the old elements in degrees, and make sure to replace them with something that won’t infuriate the users.
11- “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Henry Ford, founder of Ford automobiles
What Henry Ford said is a great addition to what we discussed above.
Users get attached to what you offer way too easily. And it is possible that they may not realize the new thing you offer is way, WAY better than the old thing they are so fond of.
It can get limiting at best to dwell on user feedback too much. A good UX designer knows how to leave space to take a guess.
Your users say they want a more accessible website? Build an app.
12- “People seek out and pay attention to information and cues that confirm their beliefs. They don’t seek out—in fact, they ignore or even discount—information that doesn’t support what they already believe.”
Susan M. Weinschenk, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Susan Weinschenk once again reminds us of the clash between old vs. new with her quote.
How does it apply to UX design?
It means if the users are used to having a go back button at the top left corner of the screen, you cannot put it in the bottom right corner.
They will simply not see it.
Of course, this quote applies to more macro elements too. But the point is simple.
Don’t try to teach an old user new tricks.
But if you insist, there is a little something you might need.
13- “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
Leonardo da Vinci, genius old man from Italy
Probably almost all these quotes point to one simple fact about UX design.
Less is definitely more.
And the users appreciate it too. Now, there is no lie there when I say I appreciate new features in a tool. We all do.
But keeping the interface clean and simple shouldn’t be a matter of decision.
After what we’ve been through in 2010s websites, I know no user is in it for a non-minimalistic design.
14- “I think it’s more accurate to think of aesthetics as a key ingredient in a recipe, as opposed to the icing on the cake.”
Stephen P. Anderson, Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences
Even though it has been decades since the original appearance of UX design, one debate is only recently been addressed properly.
Function vs. aesthetics turned out to be function AND aesthetics and I don’t think anyone is going to complain.
Truth is, it is easy to see why people would favor function over aesthetics. After all, UX has a lot to do with tech, psychology, and essentially analytics.
But if you think a badly designed interface is going to keep your users, try again.
Without aesthetics, functionality fails.
15- “If no one hates it no one really loves it”
Jessica Walsh, art and design rising star
Design and especially contemporary design is known for evoking powerful emotions.
And if we were to recall Milton Glaser’s point of view, creativity entails doubt. Just like it entails positive and negative responses from the receivers.
So, it is obvious to understand from Jessica Walsh’s quote that going beyond the usual takes guts, and only when you acknowledge the hate can you see the love for your work.
That is how art and the art of UX works.
16- “No user testing is the agile way of wasting your development budget.”
Mario Maruffi, UX/Product design consultant
Let’s get one thing straight.
You don’t ask the users what they want. But you have to ask them if they like what you created for them.
Otherwise, you are doomed to fail. ‘Cuz user testing is one step you can’t skip.
17- “Test small, bet big. Build on what works, get rid of what doesn’t. Repeat.”
Molly Norris Walker, UX Design for Growth: How to optimize your product for customer conversion
Just because you can’t skip user testing, it doesn’t mean you have to go overboard.
In fact, bigger test groups often end up confusing the developers and the designers big time.
So, take Molly Norris Walker’s advice.
You can risk things, you can change things, and you can go back to square one if it doesn’t work out.
What matters is you keep repeating.
18- “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young
Another risk-taker, Kurt Vonnegut draws attention to the very nature of UX design.
With all the user testing and journey mapping, optimization and maintenance, designers jump off cliffs every time. They grow with the feedback and design better, only to repeat it on the next cliff. Poetic, no? 🥺
Still, the emphasis on the risk is very meaningful in terms of UX design. We wouldn’t have moved one inch forward without it.
19- “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Steve Jobs, yes, THE Steve Jobs
Just like Henry Ford, Steve Jobs is aware of the problem with focus groups.
Moving from a feedback point of view blocks the space for innovation.
I repeat my own advice for UX designers. Don’t ask users what they want, show them what you have, and watch them start wanting it.
Otherwise, you just end up in an imitation cycle, trying to copy what the others in the business are doing.
20- “Don’t start any sentence with “From a design perspective…” because that’s usually just another way of saying “from my perspective.” Remember, we don’t care about your perspective; we care about the user’s perspective.”
Tom Greever, Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
Tom Greever really came for some designers’ necks, huh? 👀
Still, there is no denying that he has a point. As much as we want UX design to have a certain “personality”, there is no room for self in the UI.
When designing, you are not you, you are the user.
Otherwise, you will have a problem spotting what went wrong with the design after your first user test.
21- “Design isn’t crafting a beautiful, textured button with breathtaking animation. It’s figuring out if there’s a way to get rid of the button altogether.”
Edward Tufte, “ET”, statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale
Already over the function vs. aesthetics debate? Have a taste of the new minimalism wave.
Although minimalism is not a new thing in UX design, its popularization sure is new. And I see no problem there.
As Tufte and many other designers said, get rid of it if it isn’t absolutely necessary.
And if it is absolutely necessary, find a way to make it simpler.
22- “Instead of trying to use your technology and expertise to make a better product for your users’ standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to make the product work dramatically better.”
Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
The designer-user dynamic is simple.
Designers want to give the users something better, the users want to keep what they are used to.
It is the simple hierarchy of needs and desires.
As we discussed above for Nir Eyal’s quote, the best thing a UX designer can do is respecting the lovable parts of a UX and only replacing it when the new version is better.
Users can get dramatic. Yes, this is a warning to you Instagram.
23- “The best way to predict the future is to create it”
Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln’s husband
This super inspirational quote by Abraham Lincoln fits the UX design context just right.
Dear UX designers, you are artists in tech.
If there is a group of artists that has power over the future, it has to be you.
So don’t go around trying to figure out the newest trends in UX. You are the trend-setter. Own it.
24- “There’s a single path to success. Yours.”
Mario Maruffi, UX/product consultant
One final thing before you head out onto your UX design journey.
Don’t try to imitate others. Don’t go for a successful formula. Doubt everything but never your instincts.
As Mario Maruffiputs it, there is a single path to success. Yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best UX design quote?
Quotes like “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.” by Martin LeBlanc and “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug are possibly among the most famous UX design quotes. While it would be a subjective decision to choose the best UX design quote, one can say all quotes on design and creativity can be candidates.
Is UX design dying?
As long as there are users, UX design will survive. Because user experience is whatever the users experience in a given medium, UX design cannot die unless designing for users is abolished.
What motivates a UX designer?
Being a UX designer is a tough job requiring creativity, critical thinking, and risk-taking skills. While all UX designers are motivated by their own muses and inspirations, one can say a good UX design or inspirational quotes on UX design have the potential to motivate UX designers.