There has been some confusion and debate about what this quotation means and whether Foxes and Hedgehogs are even true archetypes or cognitive styles. But let’s just run with the concept for a moment and pretend the Fox and the Hedgehog exist in the world of User Experience. I’ll describe some key attributes of UX Foxes and UX Hedgehogs that may make them unique and important.
UX Foxes are people who can think laterally and apply insights from several fields. They may have a background in psychology, business, or English literature or have taken a non-traditional path into the UX design community. We sometimes find UX Foxes tucked away in corporate environments—where they have held various roles in communications, marketing, or IT departments. Or they may have done a solid amount of freelance consulting or work in an agency setting where they’ve applied their craft in different verticals and worn several different hats in the process.
They bring with them a diverse set of experiences and an ability to easily shift their thinking and adapt to new constraints. They’re more comfortable with—and even embrace—uncertainty. They approach problems and unfamiliar terrain with curiosity and creativity. People with this style bring a lot to the table when solving a problem requires research—perhaps by doing a contextual inquiry—or scoping information architecture and interaction design.
UX Hedgehogs are the specialists who have honed their craft and mastered a domain through years of experience. Think of those people who fit the model of the 10,000-hour rule. Some UX Hedgehogs, having gained too much knowledge in a single discipline or domain over time, are handicapped by having become locked into their own discipline or one business domain. They can be so eager for a resolution that it’s difficult for them to handle uncertainty, but they’re great at solving one set of problems or delivering one set of outcomes in a pinch—for example, crafting wireframes, developing a visual identity, or telling stories. Many are also great at specific practice areas such as usability testing or visual design.