November 3, 2023
UI/UX Design

The History of UI UX Design

The principles of design have changed and tools like Figma revolutionized the UI UX design world. But how and where did it all start?
Gabriel Pana
November 3, 2023
The History of UI UX Design

The advancements of technology have been incredible. We started from nothing and ended up having more than we can imagine. In fact, if you asked our grandparents in 1960 what the end of the decade would look like, chances are that rarely would they anticipate the moon landing of Neil Armstrong. We didn’t even have concepts like UI UX design or Figma. And we clearly didn’t imagine what they would mean in the world of design. 

Back then, when we thought about “design”, we would immediately think of making things look good. Nothing more. Indeed, this definition still stands – to some extent, at least. Now, as the digital world evolved, so has the definition of design. Nowadays, we have UI design, UX design, graphic designers, and just so many other design tools.

So, how has the world of digital design changed, and what is the history of UI UX design? How and where did it all start? 

4000 BC Feng Shui Philosophy

Well, believe it or not, UI UX design can go back as far as 4000 BC. We’ve all heard of Feng Shui. But not many of us realize that this ancient Chinese practice is one of the earliest principles of design – UX design to be even more precise. A good UX design is based on creating a structure that has purpose, and flow, and it’s easy and fun for us to use. And this applies to both digital and physical design. 

Feng Shui represents just that! In fact, Feng Shui refers to creating a spatial arrangement of objects that offers an optimal and harmonious space for living. Think about it this way! A well-designed room should provide enough space for us to move around and for the placement of the furniture to make sense and be homey. Just as Feng Shui aims to create a sense of balance and harmony in these rooms, a UI UX designer will aim to create balance and usability in their platform. 

500 BC Ancient Greeks And Ergonomics

Before we go to more recent times, the origins of UI UX design can also be traced back to Greek civilizations in the 5th century BC. The Western philosophy is born from the ideas of Plato and Socrates. So, it makes sense that some principles from Ancient Greeks will be applied to the digital world as well. 

But how exactly does this influence the principles of design? Well, in ancient Greece, a concept that would later translate into today’s world took shape: ergonomics. Indeed, the term itself is relatively new, but research explains that the Ancient Greeks were aware of these principles. 

According to the International Ergonomics Association, “Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” 

And Greek philosophers started exploring the relationship between humans and the context of tools and workspaces. In fact, Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, and often regarded as the father of modern medicine, wrote about the importance of designing tools that accommodate natural movements. He explained that a surgeon’s place should be set up in such a way that the surgeon’s tools should be within reach. This way, they don’t waste time and effort and their movement will come naturally. 

That’s exactly how UX design is today! 

Taylorism: Early 1900s Frederick Winslow Taylor And Workplace Management

In the early 1900s, the American mechanical engineer, Fredrick Winslow Taylor, wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management”, which continues the fundamental ideas that Hippocrates laid out about designing for people. The book contains a series of research that also analyzes the interaction between a worker and their tools. 

The concept of Taylorism explains that it’s the managers’ job to make the working system as efficient as possible. He even claimed that the progress of our business is reflected in how these techniques are optimized. 

And this can be translated into our UI UX designs as well. The easier for people to interact with our products, the more positive results it will bring. And just as Taylor aimed to streamline the industrial processes, UI UX designers strive to make the website or app design as easy and logical as possible. 

1940s Toyota Production System

Ohno Taiichi is thought to be the father of the Toyota Production System. But he’s also the first one to implement a human-centered approach in workspace design. And, compared to Taylorism who put the responsibility of streamlining these processes on managers’ shoulders, Taiichi encouraged workers to be part of these changes. That’s why the Toyota Production System became the representation of lean methodologies. 

By putting their customers at the center of their processes in order to solve their problems, he emphasized the importance of continuous feedback. Through frequent improvements and iterations, they were able to create a product that was specifically designed for people and that benefits them. This has become a fundamental step in the UX design process as well, what we know of today as user-centered design.

1955 Henry Dreyfuss – The Art Of Designing For People

1955 was the year when a consistent breakthrough focused on user-centered design took place once Henry Dreyfuss’s book “Designing for People” was launched. The book focuses on making people feel safe, making people feel comfortable, helping people use their time efficiently and the last takeaway is to make the people happy. And all of those can be applied to the design

Your users shouldn’t feel endangered or pressured when they are using your design. A shady design will simply lead to a bad user experience, and no designer wants that. Make your design efficient and accessible while creating a happy and peaceful environment for your user. So, with this book, Henry Dreyfuss delivered some of the early principles of UX design at the same time explaining why a good user experience is important.

1960s Walt Disney – An Early UX Designer?

Not knowing who Walt Disney is it’s just impossible. The creator of your childhood movies, but also mentioned as one of the first UX designers. The one who designed colorful, immersive, and magical experiences, creating principles and guidelines for his team of engineers teaching them how to think like their users when creating anything. 

And, this is how he conquered the animation world and made a name for himself. Walt Dinsey came up with the solutions before the problems even existed. Constantly developing and improving his work and using similar principles that can be found in UX design.

1970s Xerox, Apple, And The PC Era

The ‘70 were just the start of what was going to happen, the beginning of a world where technology is indispensable. And, Steve Jobs played a big role in the whole process, being the creator of the first Apple Macintosh Computer released in 1984. Even more so, the PC is recognized as the first of its kind that created a sustainable environment for a graphical user interface. 

And, let’s not forget about the creation of the mouse. The pioneer of the mouse we have today was developed by Xerox at Palo Alto Research Center, marking the progress of a user-centered design by integrating elements like icons, Windows, and the cursor. The computer allows its users to share files, do simple sketches, and edit graphics.

1990s Donald Norman Defines UX Design

The ‘90 seemed like they happened yesterday, but in reality, a great deal of time has passed since Don Norman published “The Design of Everyday Things”. This book mentions the term “user experience” and marks the importance of user-centered designs.

And, his potential was recognized by Apple Research Labs where in the mid-'90s he was the first user experience architect. Helping the research and the development of more user-centered products and designs. 

Early 2000s The iPhone Revolution

In 2007 we had the launch of the first iPhone. The beginning of a life-changing user experience with the appearance of the first smartphone. The first iPhone offered access to different apps, the ability to send messages, and pictures, and get weather updates, It had a GPS incorporated and all those actions were possible with a simple touch.

All of these characteristics seem normal today, but back then phones used to be chunky and have buttons. It was the user experience brought to the next level. The design used for this phone also lacked some key features, but it was just the beginning. 


The world of design is constantly evolving and changing. We have virtual reality, augmented reality, and endless resources and options to deliver a great user experience and user interface. Good design has become a mandatory part when thinking about a new app, website, or any other project. As Brain Reed said “Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” and this might not always come as easy as we would expect. 

So, a Design system might be what we need to deliver the right user experience and accessibility. When we think about a design system we need to see more than a library of elements. A design system is all you need when designing, it has guidelines, and style guides and it’s even like a Figma Library that you can use whenever you want. One of the biggest advantages when using a design system benign the ability to customize everything you need in order to make it unique.

uinkits – Our Figma UI Kit

We at uinkits understand the importance of great user experiences in creating amazing UI designs. That’s why we’ve developed a Figma UI Kit with design components that include the essential UI elements that enable you to design intuitive and user-friendly interfaces effortlessly.  

“You press the button, we do the rest,” – Kodak.

Inspired by this iconic tagline from Kodak, we believe in simplifying the design process for you. Our Figma UI Kit, uinkits, is a complete design system with UI components that allows you, as a UI UX designer, to create your products as quickly as pressing a button. 

Our design system components, including variables, cards, buttons, and everything you need for your design process. All you have to do is take your UI design component needed, and you’re ready to use it in your designs!

Gabriel Pana
November 3, 2023

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