Design from the POV of INFJ personality type

As a UX-focused product designer, I’ve always been interested in researching user behavior, visual cues, and different underlying motivations that can have an impact on the user experience. Knowing more about yourself can help grow and further improve collaboration with others.

I’m an INFJ personality type. I discovered that I was an INFJ personality type by making an online personality test based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). MTBI was developed based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types by Isabel Briggs Myers and Kathrine Briggs in the 1940s.

All types are equal and there is no best one — it is about understanding and appreciating differences between people. Today I’m going to cover what I learned about my personality type and how the INFJ thought process sees design.

INFJ stands for Introverted, INtuitive, Feeling, and Judging, making about 1 to 2 percent of the population. INFJs are defined by MTBI as highly intuitive individuals with a desire for deep thoughts and connections. INFJs have a vivid imagination and a complex character that might be hard to make sense of; even for themselves. INFJs are doers guided by their inner vision, goals, and strong values on striving to do what’s right. INFJs can be reserved, quiet and aim to keep a certain harmony, but light up when challenged by things they care about. INFJs are highly sensitive to how others feel and are usually referred to as the advocate, the idealist, or the protector.

Let’s jump in.

The Perfectionist

INFJs want to get to the heart of everything, explore at a deeper level and avoid surface-level things. They put their entire attention, energy, and focus on creating the best possible outcome. This can mean doing extensive research on a subject before starting a project. Research is important for any design project — how much research is enough? When do you know what is enough? A problem with INFJs is that they tend to be very intense on this, and can easily forget time, scope, and resource constraints — leaving them stressed. I have found the best way to work with this is to set scopes, priorities, and timebox yourself.

INFJs have a vivid imagination, which is especially useful when creating initial assumptions and user stories for a project. It is a very exciting part of any project as you get to imagine all the different possibilities. INFJs take into consideration the bigger picture and look towards the future. It sounds great for design, though just like with the research example above, one of the problems is the all-or-nothing and perfectionism kind of mindset of taking things to the extreme.

INFJ’s are not only perfectionists in the details but also in looking for meaning in their work. INFJ’s have high expectations of themselves which can lead to more anxiousness as they rarely settle for “it’s alright”. INFJs are in continuous self-improvement. When they’ve completed a task, they are already thinking about the next.

Empathic

Understanding human nature is the strength for INFJs, especially digging deep into people’s motivations, feelings, and needs. They live in a world of symbols, patterns, and hidden meanings. INFJs tend to have a very strong intuition of people and are somehow pretty good at predicting behavior, but the problem is that they find it hard to explain why.

In design, having this kind of intuition and level of empathy is good for creating initial assumptions, stories, and mockups, but usually, these would need a bit more background, testing, or backing it up with actual insights. Why it could work? Why did you do it this way? Why would the user do A or B.

You always have to start somewhere, but saying to a stakeholder that you have a feeling this or that approach might work is simply not enough. It is also one of the basics of design — having a justified reason for a design decision. i.e. Why is this text bold? Aesthetics and usability should complement each other.

Two examples:

1. I’ve added the item name on the error message in bold, because it feels right and looks clear.

2. I’ve added the item name to the error message in bold because highlighting an item among other content draws the focus of the eye and communicates importance.

INFJs might have had an intuition to make the initial design as described in example 1, but they usually just do not know how to explain this feeling.

Rephrasing the response as shown in example 2 helps show good reasoning behind the decision. This could help to convince a stakeholder or the team to make this design choice and test it further. Basic principles of visual design, such as contrast, colors, and hierarchy can support a long way in explaining decisions.

The introverted intuition of INFJs helps to find out patterns and make predictions. It is about thinking something that could be and not necessarily about something that will happen. INFJs do put a lot of faith in their gut feeling, but just as mentioned above, these gut feelings should have something to back them up.

Sensitive Outsider

Critique, feedback, and testing are important for design. Most people do not like to be criticized and this is very true for INFJs who try to avoid confrontation as much as possible. INFJs aim to keep a certain harmony among people as they are very sensitive to other people and do not want to offend anyone. INFJs will defend their ideas when challenged, though they might find it hard sometimes to put their thoughts into words as they can be running several scenarios in their head at the same time. They are overthinking every word and action and will keep thinking about it long after it has happened — for example, what was said in a design review.

Design reviews are great sessions for gathering feedback and improving designs based on multiple points of view. However, design reviews can also easily seem daunting and attacking, which in turn can make the effects of the exercise limited. Removing these potential limitations can be possible by creating an environment where critique or communication on design is regarded as more a free discussion and all ideas are welcomed.

How to approach this exercise is important. Are you approaching it as if you were presenting to a superior hoping to get a passing grade? Will this kind of approach help in the end? Or to a team on why you what you did? There is a lot of talk about critique, and the environment this is made in can make a big impact on how it is perceived, how people will interact, and how much you can get from it.

Final Thoughts

INFJs crave a deeper purpose and try to make sense of the world. One of the reasons I like design is that it is always about creating something, learning new things, and creating valuable things for people. Design is about solving problems and this fits quite well for INFJs as they enjoy solving problems and dig deeper into the meaning of things, and most importantly in the field of UX, into people.

INFJs need some form of routine, but also like to keep things flexible. In addition to needing a sense of purpose in their lives and at work, INFJS have a strong need for closure. This goes back again to the all-or-nothing mindset and that INFJs are doers. They work hard to accomplish a task they started.

Further reading on INFJ and the personality types:

I’m David, a product designer based in NYC. I specialize in UX design and building digital experiences.