Blog Image
Tedde van Gelderen

Tedde van Gelderen

Founder & President

Highly Successful UX: Pi shaped minds

In my years of hiring and coaching UX talent, I’ve seen a clear characteristic of the more successful, i.e. higher impact, people that made a difference with our clients and other stakeholders. I’d describe them as having Pi (π) shaped minds. They can be from different disciplines (design, psychology, technology, content), but share the ability to excel in two aspects of the HCD process.

I’ve Seen these Combinations in Highly Successful UX People:

  • User Research and Interaction Design
  • Interaction Design and Visual Design
  • Interaction Design and Coding
  • Usability Testing and Information Architecture
  • UX Strategy and User Research

The trend seems to be that there is a need to design and a need to – in a more analytical way – research as well.

Some were better at the design aspect, and some were more comfortable in the user research, but in the end, they never could leave the other discipline alone and focus on just one specialty. After a while, there was this swing back to the ‘other’ side to scratch that itch as well.

What struck me in this was that the Pi people were able to make connections that others found hard to make: taking insights from the research and translating them into the designs that would really tackle that research insight. That is a rare quality that to this day I only see in some UX team members.

Often there is a visible line between the market researchers, user researchers, usability testers on the one hand and the IAs, interaction designers and visual designers on the other. When these teams work together there is much communication needed to convey the research and translate it into design.

Even with multi-disciplinary teams, I’ve seen many times an ‘us and them’ when it comes to taking the user research, personas, scenarios and apply them effectively – translating them effectively – into IAs and wireframes. The data is second-guessed, own interpretations are injected, and what is created is sometimes needlessly divergent from what the strategy and research pointed them in.

This happens even when the designers are fully involved in the user research. Because they are not the leads but mostly tagging along, there is less urgency to really make the research data their own, but instead sit on the fence sometimes whether they will follow the research data or listen to their own gut feel.

The above seems less of an issue if the Pi people are doing both, for real, full-on. I’ve been lucky to see many great UX-ers with a Pi shaped mind successfully gather the research data, interpret, analyze, conclude and take these insights to more fully inform the designs while keeping an open mind to new evidence, left-field creativity and best practices in design that don’t necessarily match the research.

That’s the kind of combination that creates great design in a very short time – critical in a consulting environment but also critical to allow for the necessary iterations of design and testing that are still needed of course.

In short, I think UX as a field has lots of singular specialists but even more dual specialists that really have Pi-shaped minds. Pi-shaped designers and researchers, it’s great to work with them!

Tedde van Gelderen

Tedde van Gelderen

Founder & President

Continually looking for ways to improve the experiences of others, Tedde has dedicated his professional life to experience design, research and strategy. He derives energy, motivation, and purpose from improving the experiences of others and believes that every organization — and every industry — can benefit from Experience Thinking.


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Learn how your comment data is used by viewing Akendi's Blog Privacy Policy

Related Articles

About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.