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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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All About Process: Dissecting Case Study Portfolios
A portfolio is more than a cache of images, it’s a way to demonstrate design skills and problem solving to clients. We show how to elevate portfolios by explaining the inner workings of a case study.
By Adnan Puzic
Adnan is a UI/UX expert with a bold aesthetic and a passion for designing digital products for startups and corporations.
Designers have portfolios. It’s a precondition of our profession. We all know we need one, so we get to work assembling images and writing project descriptions. Then, we put our work on the web for all to see, tiny shrines to individual talent and creativity.
It’s a familiar process, a rite of passage, but why do we need portfolios in the first place?
If we’re honest, we must admit that most of our portfolio design decisions are influenced by what other designers are doing. That’s not necessarily bad, but if we don’t understand why portfolios look the way they do, we’re merely imitating.
We may produce dazzling imagery, but we also risk a portfolio experience that’s like strolling through an art gallery. “Look at the pretty pictures…”
The number one audience that design portfolios must please? Non-designers.
These are the people who seek our services, the ones working for the businesses and organizations that invest in our problem solving abilities.
Non-designers need more than beauty from a design portfolio; they need clarity and assurance. They need to come away believing in a designer’s expertise, their design process, and ability to solve problems in an efficient manner.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to design a portfolio to meet those needs.
The Advantages of a Case Study
What is a case study?
A case study is a tool that a designer may use to explain his involvement in a design project, whether as a solo designer or part of a team. It is a detailed account, written in the designer’s own voice (first person), that examines the client’s problem, the designer’s role, the problem solving process, and the project’s outcome.
Who can use a case study?
The beauty of the case study framework is that it’s adaptable to multiple design disciplines. It organizes need-to-know information around common categories and questions that are applicable to all kinds of design projects—from UX research to visual identities .
At its core, a case study is a presentation format for communicating the journey from problem to solution. Details within the framework may change, but the momentum is always moving towards clarity and uncovering a project’s most important whats , whys , and hows .
How do case studies benefit designers?
Many clients don’t understand all that goes into the design process. And while they certainly don’t need to know everything , a case study provides a big-picture overview and sets up realistic expectations about what it takes to design an elegant solution.
A case study can also be a handy presentation aide that a designer may use when interviewing a potential client. The format allows a designer to talk about their work and demonstrate their expertise in a natural and logical progression. “Here’s what I did, how it helped, and how I might apply a similar approach with you.”
Are there any drawbacks to using case studies?
Don’t let a case study turn into a ca-a-a-a-a-se study. The whole project should be digestible within 1-2 minutes max. If necessary, provide links to more detailed documents so that interested visitors may explore further.
A lot of design work, especially digital, is created within multidisciplinary teams, so designers need to be clear about their role in a project. Blurring the lines of participation gives clients false expectations.
Many make the mistake of treating portfolios as repositories of all of their past projects, but three to five case studies documenting a designer’s most outstanding work is enough to satisfy the curiosity of most potential clients (who simply don’t have time to mine through everything a designer ever did).
Case studies are professional documents, not tell-all manuscripts, and there are some things that simply shouldn’t be included. Descriptions of difficult working relationships, revelations of company-specific information (i.e., intellectual property), and contentious explanations of rejected ideas ought to be left out.
Crafting a Customer-centric Case Study
It’s one thing to know what a case study is and why it’s valuable. It’s an entirely different and more important thing to know how to craft a customer-centric case study. There are essentials that every case study must include if clients are to make sense of what they’re seeing.
What are the core elements of a case study?
Introduce the client.
Present the design problem.
Recap your role.
Share the solution you designed.
Walk through the steps of your design process.
Describe the results.
Note any key learnings.
Wrap it all up with a short conclusion.
Happily, the core elements also outline a case study presentation format that’s simple, repeatable, and applicable to multiple disciplines. Let’s look closer:
- Who was the client?
- What industry are they in?
- What goods or services do they provide?
- Keep this section brief.
- What was the client’s problem?
- Why was it important that the problem be solved?
- Are there any additional background tidbits that might be helpful or interesting?
- What, specifically, were you hired to do?
- What were the constraints? Time. Budgetary. Technological. Etc.
- Before diving into your process, summarize the solution you designed.
- Make the summary short but powerful.
- Don’t give all the good parts away, and don’t be afraid to use language that makes your audience curious about the rest of the project.
- Go through the various steps of your discipline specific process.
- Again, summarize what you did, but don’t overload. Find a balance between informational and interesting.
- If you can, try to make each step introduce a question that only the following step can answer.
- Use this section to share a more robust description of the results of your design process.
- Be direct, avoid jargon, and don’t get too carried away with the amount of text you include.
- Don’t go overboard here, but if there are interesting things that you learned during the process, include them.
- If they won’t be helpful for the client, leave them out.
- Quickly summarize the project, and invite potential customers to contact you.
- It doesn’t hurt to provide a call to action and a contact link.
*Note: This isn’t the only case study format, just one that works. It’s helpful for people to encounter a predictable framework so they can focus on what they’re looking at as opposed to interpreting an inventive presentation structure.
The Value of Overlooked Details
Want to create a case study with a top notch user experience? Don’t underestimate the value of design details. Design projects are more than problem-meets-solution. They’re deeply human endeavors, and it makes a difference to clients when they see that a designer goes above and beyond in their work.
Share client feedback.
How did the client feel about your working relationship and the solution you provided? When you deliver top-notch work and nurture trust, get client feedback and include it in the case study as a testimonial.
If something you designed blew your client away, weave a testimonial into the case study (along with an image of what you made). This combo is proof positive to potential customers that you can deliver.
Explain positive metrics.
Not all design work has direct metrics that prove its success, but if your work does, and the results are impressive, include them. Just make sure that you don’t mislead (easy to do with statistics), and be careful that the metrics make sense to your audience.
Show unselected work.
Sometimes, amazing work from the design process doesn’t make it through to the finished product. These unused artifacts are helpful because they show an ability to explore a range of concepts.
Highlight unglamorous design features.
Not every aspect of design is glamorous. Like a pinky finger, small details may seem insignificant but they’re actually indispensable. Highlight these and recap why they matter.
Link to live projects.
It can be highly persuasive for a client to experience your work doing it’s thing out in the real world. Don’t hesitate to include links to live projects. Just make sure that your role in the project is clear, especially when you didn’t design everything you’re linking to.
Win Clients and Advance Careers with Case Study Portfolios
Designers need clients. We need their problems, their insights, their feedback, and their investments in the solutions we provide.
Since clients are so important, we ought to think about them often and strive to make entering into partnership with us as easy and painless as possible. Design portfolios are a first impression, an opportunity to put potential clients at ease and show that we understand their needs.
Case studies push our design portfolios past aesthetic allure to a level where our skills, communication abilities, and creativity instill trust and inspire confidence. Even better, they take clients out of a passive, browsing mindset to a place where “That looks cool,” becomes “That’s someone I’d like to work with.”
Further Reading on the Toptal Blog:
- UX Portfolio Tips and Best Practices
- Ditch MVPs, Adopt Minimum Viable Prototypes (MVPrs)
- Breaking Down the Design Thinking Process
- Influence with Design – A Guide to Color and Emotions
- The Best UX Designer Portfolios: Inspiring Case Studies and Examples
Understanding the basics
How do i create a design portfolio.
Nowadays, it’s best to create a design portfolio online. Options vary: Some designers use a service like Behance or a WYSIWYG website builder like Squarespace, while others build custom sites with CSS. It’s also important that online design portfolios be responsive for multiple screen sizes.
How do I create an online portfolio for free?
Websites like Behance and Dribbble (among others) are free options for designers to publish online portfolios. Some designers have opted to forgo traditional web portfolios and instead document their work on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Free sites also take care of design portfolio layout.
How do you organize a design portfolio?
A designer ought to organize his portfolio according to his strengths. This means highlighting his best and most relevant work. Remember that design portfolios should be made with potential clients in mind. Avoid overly technical project descriptions, images without context, and excessively long case studies.
What is the purpose of a case study?
Many design portfolios consist of short project summaries and process images, but case studies are a way for designers to show their problem-solving skills to clients in greater detail. This is achieved by defining the client’s problem and the designer’s role, along with an overview of the designer’s process.
What are the advantages of a case study?
Case studies combine descriptive text and images and allow designers to demonstrate the details of their design processes to potential clients. They are also a great way for designers to highlight problem solving and small, but powerful, design features that may otherwise be overlooked.
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How to present a UX design case study
A well-written and formatted case study can make the difference between catching a hiring manager’s eye and being overlooked.
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Case studies are the cornerstone of any UX design portfolio. A well-written and formatted case study can make the difference between catching a hiring manager’s eye and being overlooked.
However, it’s not easy to figure out the best way to present a UX design case study, especially if you haven’t created one before. How much detail should you go into? How many images should you include? Should you only present polished final work, or should you show the iterations and setbacks you went through along the way?
This post will demystify the process of presenting a case study in your UX portfolio. While there is no one-size-fits-all method for creating a case study, these guidelines will give you a clear structure to follow.
We’ll first provide an overview of what a case study is, as well as a basic outline for writing them. Then we’ll dive deeper into each section that should be included in a case study, complete with real-world examples.
Here’s what we’ll explore:
What is a UX design case study?
How should a case study be structured, what should be included in each case study section, final thoughts.
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A UX case study is a detailed summary of a project you designed. Case studies go beyond the polished final product of your design work to tell the story of one project from beginning to end. That means explaining through both text and images what the project was, how you and your team tackled the design problem, and what the final results were.
The objective is to give hiring managers insight into the way you think, including how you approach and solve UX problems and how you overcome challenges. This will help them understand how you’d fit into their UX team if they hired you. Each case study you include in your portfolio is a chance to showcase how you employed your strengths and skills as a UX designer at each stage of the design process .
As a result, the UX case studies you create will have a big impact on whether you are selected for a job interview. And, during an interview, you’ll likely be asked to talk about your case studies so hiring managers can learn more about your past UX design experience.
Case studies can help your UX portfolio stand out from other job applicants—but only if you can clearly articulate your design thinking and process through them. The best way to do this is to think of each case study as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Each section of your case study should build on the previous section as you guide your reader from the inception of the project to your final deliverables. Along the way, you should include clear, concise explanations of what you did alongside images of the project. In addition, each section should be presented with a strong visual hierarchy so that readers can easily understand both the project and your contributions to it by scanning your case study .
Each case study will be different depending on the project you’re explaining and the details you’re highlighting. However, the following is a general outline of the main sections to include:
The problem, process and iterations, final design solution, results and key takeaways.
Let’s outline the key information you should include in each section of your case study.
In this section, you’ll provide context for the project. This is often the part of the case study that readers will pay especially close attention to, so it should be brief but informative. You’ll start with an overview of the project, including the company it was for and the product that you were tasked with designing.
You’ll then articulate your role and responsibilities on the project. Be honest about what you did and how you contributed. If the case study is about something other than a client project, such as a project for a class, you should mention that too.
You can also include details about the project that you’ll expand on later — such as the problem you were presented with, how you and your team began to approach the project, and some information about the results of the design you ultimately delivered.
For visuals, you can include anything from the logo of the company you were designing for, a picture of the “before” state of the product if you’re detailing a redesign, or an image of the final product you designed.
A good example of a case study introduction can be seen in Yi Tang’s case study for a game discovery experience , designed for the gaming company EA.
Source: Yi Tang’s portfolio
In the introduction, he provides a good overview of the project, including the client and the goals of the project, and his role and responsibilities are clearly articulated. Most importantly, the information is easy to scan and understand.
This is where you’ll start to get into the specifics of the project by explaining the design problem you were tasked with solving. Why was this project valuable to both the product’s users and the company’s business goals? Include any research or competitive analysis data that helps explain why the project was important, including any surveys of users or usage data.
Source: Helen W. Bentley’s portfolio
Meanwhile, in her case study for Udemy’s online quiz experience , Frances Tung uses a combination of text and images to explain the problem and why a redesign of the experience was necessary for both the company and Udemy’s users.
Source: Frances Tung’s portfolio
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In this section, you’ll go into more detail about who your users are. This section is the place to showcase any user research that was done for the project, and is especially important if you’re applying for a position as a UX researcher . If that’s the case, you might want to include images of transcripts or other documents that specify how you used research to better understand your users.
This section should also describe any findings about users’ goals and needs when it comes to the product, and include deliverables such as user personas and journey maps.
For one example, check out Simon Pan’s redesign of the Uber app’s pickup experience .
Source: Simon Pan’s portfolio
User research was conducted to understand users’ pain points with the current app. In just a couple of sentences, Pan explains the study that was performed to capture how users were thinking about the app experience. Pan then describes the findings that came out of it.
For UX designers, this is the most important part of the case study because it’s a chance to demonstrate your design thinking skills, including how you make design decisions and how you respond to challenges and setbacks.
Here you’ll explain the steps you took to solve the problem and why different design decisions were made. Don’t be shy about detailing several iterations of the project as you got closer and closer to the final design solution. If you worked within specific constraints, encountered setbacks, or had to make compromises during the design process, describe those as well. They’ll help hiring managers understand how you respond to adversity.
You can include a range of deliverables in this section, including:
- Whiteboard or paper sketches
- Low or medium fidelity wireframes and prototypes
Of course, you can’t include every document showing every iteration the design went through. So choose some good representative examples to give hiring managers an idea of how the project progressed over time.
Source: Emily Yeh’s portfolio
This section is reserved for revealing the final design solution you arrived at. You should explain what went into any final design decisions, and include images of the final product (or high-fidelity mockups), as well as the final UX documents that you created, such as prototypes or wireframes.
One good example comes from Ariel Verber’s case study of a redesign for a movie ticket booking app.
He uses both text and images of the final product mockup to clearly explain how his solution arose from his user research.
After you’ve presented the final design solution, it can be tempting to call it a day. But don’t! This final section will make a strong conclusion to your case study by explaining the impacts of your design solution (if you’re aware of them) and what you learned from the project.
For projects that have been launched, you should detail any results that demonstrate how the product improved the user experience and helped meet business goals. This could be analytics that show an increase in the number of users visiting or the average time spent with the product, metrics that demonstrate an increase in sign ups or purchases, or any data about improved user satisfaction you might have access to.
It’s also worthwhile to include a retrospective of the project that describes any learnings you took away from the experience. After all, no project is perfect. This is an opportunity to explain how working on the project helped you grow and evolve as a UX designer, including the next steps you’d like to take to make further improvements to the product, and anything that will influence how you approach other UX projects.
Source: Helen Bentley’s portfolio
Creating a UX design case study can feel overwhelming. But remember: you know your project best and should be able to clearly articulate it, both in writing and through images. While the focus in UX is often on designing deliverables, written and visual communication is also an important part of the job. A UX case study not only shows off your design thinking skills; it’s also a chance to demonstrate your communication abilities. If you can combine the two into a stellar case study, you’ll be all the more likely to get a hiring manager’s attention.
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- Senongo Akpem
- Feb 12, 2015
Designing Case Studies: Showcasing A Human-Centered Design Process
- 15 min read
- Workflow , Process , Case Studies , UX
- Share on Twitter , LinkedIn
About The Author
Senongo is a Nigerian-American designer and illustrator in New York City. He designs and builds digital experiences, and is the founder of Pixel Fable , an … More about Senongo ↬
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Designers are great at producing visual artifacts. We create mockups, images, code and all sorts of other material to document our solutions. But looking only at those artifacts doesn’t account for the actual creative process.
In their article “ Documenting Design-In-Process ,” John Bassani and Carolyn Barnes highlight a potential reason: We view our design approaches as intuitive and emotional, so we have a hard time developing documented, human-focused design processes.
Fortunately, there is a better way. Designers can create in-depth, documented case studies of their work. The best ones clarify the complex choices designers have to make and explain their thinking behind UX and visual decisions. They document and communicate that knowledge clearly, helping our design community to develop a more empathetic, human‐centered way of speaking about our process of design.
Writing in Design for Human Scale , Victor Papanek puts it like this:
"Design is a joyous, creative act. It concerns itself with problem solving and decision making. It provides the designer with enormous gratification to watch a concept move from the first explorative lines on a sheet of paper through different stages of development."
This article analyzes some key features of case studies and provides tips on how to use them to humanize your process of design.
State Both Broad And Concrete Goals
I’ve always tried to write up my design briefs with specific deliverables and concrete goals. But that doesn’t mean there can be no room for experimentation. Often this shows up as broad goals, ones that can’t necessarily be captured in a client brief. Making our broad and concrete goals clear in a case study keeps the focus on problem-solving , not just asset delivery.
Let’s look at two case studies that have this dual goal-setting.
In the first example, Frog and the Nike Foundations’s Girl Effect case study contains both broad and concrete goals: “Explore the value of community for young women living in poverty” is paired with “modeled simple forms of digital communication.” Though simply stated, these keep the focus on the problem and the solution.
In the second example, Domain7 does this as well. The case study combines the city of Vancouver’s goals of digitizing and becoming responsive but also references the Domain7 team’s technical goals. The use of phrases like “We are up to the task!” tell us that their challenge was not simply to deliver code to the city, but also to solve a problem internally that they could be proud of.
In these projects, the broad goals of the clients (Nike, Girl Effect, Vancouver) are paired with the needs of teams working on them. This dual framing gives us a deeper understanding of the general outcomes they explored, along with more specific project goals, always putting the human at the center of the process.
- Define your broad project goal early in the case study, with a focus on larger issues like community, the environment or empowerment.
- Attach your concrete goal to the deliverables of the project or the technical problems you hope to solve.
Focus On Process Before Artifact
We have taken the first step towards crafting a human-centered case study. Next is a look at how we can focus on process before artifact. But what exactly am I getting at when I say “design artifact”? Sandra Wolfe Wood explains (PDF):
“‘Design as artifact’ is framed around the solution, a physical deliverable like a logo or website; “design as process” places more emphasis on the problem-solving process.”
Well-documented case studies can show that design needs to be much more than a list of client deliverables. Focusing first on process shows design as a deliberate collaborative act , not a solitary one. The sketches, user journeys and mockups all help the reader to visualize the work and, more importantly, to see that it was created by human beings. We see how design comes into being, not just what the pieces look like like at the end.
Gravitate’s Sahale case study shows this in action. From their work of defining user personas to the content audit and even the style tiles, we see how the team prioritizes their design process, almost enabling the reader to participate as the website takes shape.
Another way to put the problem-solving process before artifact is to highlight contributors and team members. Dan Mall’s TechCrunch case study features a prominent list of collaborators, followed by a project outline and then sketching. He focuses on the design process, on starting, rather than finishing.
- Illustrate your design process to the reader with simple, easy-to-understand steps, ones that they can duplicate in their own projects.
- Show photographs of your team working collaboratively, in situations that illustrate your design process.
- If possible, list your collaborators and the roles they played. This moves the case study towards an exploration of people and process, beyond simply a description of design deliverables.
Show Research In Clear, Process-Oriented Chunks
Whatever the exact steps of your human-centered design process, it will need to include research and exploration. You can present research in case studies as process-oriented chunks. This could mean photos of a wall covered with stickies, complex illustrations and structural sketches, or even data models and usability results .
In his essay on the co-design process (PDF), Marc Steen develops the idea that we need co-inquiry and collaborative exploration in order to develop solutions to briefs. We define artifacts as the solution, but they need to come from a collaborative, human-centered approach to the design goals. Case studies are best when they show real relationships between research, data and solutions .
So, what are some of the key forms these process-oriented chunks can take?
Sketches And Prototypes
For Erskine, starting with rough interactive wireframes gave them the conceptual framework they needed to continue. With the goal of prototyping a fast, responsive website, they started with the concept and low-fidelity mockups and then gradually went into more and more detail as they refined the prototype.
Mozilla’s Save for Later case study is another particularly strong example that focuses on explanation. Right from the beginning of the case study, the reader walks through research phases and content mapping. Conceptual work is illustrated with diagrams and icons, to clarify the findings. In each step of this case study, the research is explained and contextualized.
As I read through these, remembering all the times I’ve done something similar, I’m able to empathize with their research process and how it is visualized.
In this example, we see @fat speaking at length about how he approached the re-architecture of Medium’s CSS. The case study is organized into conceptual steps and lists five distinct “projects” he undertook, along with the code that came from those explorations. It’s more than that, though. Each research chunk is littered with references to the team, to “we” and to collaborative efforts to refactor the CSS. It shows research as a very human process.
User Experience Notes
As designers, we are intimately familiar with that mental transition from abstract research to real experience. Maggie Salter discusses her work in developing models to “rehumanize” information design, saying:
"At its genesis, information is humanized; in the systematization process, it loses its innate human-ness. This… represents an attempt to re-insert that humanized nature back into information design, hence its goal is to rehumanize information design."
As I looked at successful case studies, this theme came up again and again. Every piece of data, every artifact, every line of code needed to relate to human experience first.
In the article about the zoom feature in FiftyThree’s Paper app, this focus on UX is a joy to read. With lines like “It usually makes people smile the first time they see it”, and the language written to “you,” the user, their technical research comes across as totally about the experience.
As you can see in these examples, sharing our design process is best with image, code and UX work that are deliberately focused on the research process. Ultimately, we need to create final design artifacts, websites and apps, but how we show our sometimes messy research is what makes the work accessible to readers and other designers.
- Show your research with photos, charts or a list of findings, even if it is not packaged neatly.
- For code, tools such as GitHub’s Gist or CodePen can illustrate your research to the technically savvy.
- Show relationships between data, research and design artifact, either in writing or by associating them visually for readers to compare.
Explain The Use Of Components And Modular Parts
Web design is increasingly a modular affair , what Matt Berridge calls “the cornerstone of modern web design”. We’ve moved away from the days of unwieldy HTML files and static PSDs, replacing them with more visual and structural abstraction . The popularity of front-end frameworks, pattern libraries and style tiles is a testament to the attractiveness of a modular approach.
In your case studies, show some of the modular elements you have designed, even if they are simply parts of a much larger set.
The Tele Finland case study from Werklig contains a wealth of iconography and type exploration. The whimsical shapes and colors all work together as modular elements. Even small details, like the rounded corners on elements and the custom typography, feel like parts of a larger modular system.
Choices of color, content types, UI elements and even illustration styles all play a part in this modular, block-level approach. Eugene Spiecher spoke of the need to be a “distinguished shape maker,” and that sounds perfect for what we do as web designers. Haraldur Thorleifsson does this very well, visually showing readers what kind of shape maker he is. The case studies on his website contain a large number of core design components, such as icons, and show how they fit together in interfaces.
Earlier in this article, I emphasized process over artifact. So, does showing these components promote design artifact over the design process? Not at all. Visual and UI design choices come after we synthesize all of the research data we looked at earlier. We gather button styles, animations and visual patterns in case studies to show that we understand the problem and can craft solutions. In showing the components parts of a solution, we see the people and knowledge at work.
- Design artifacts can make your process come alive. Show them at work in your design.
- Present modular elements together in image sprites or charts to show visual relationships and systems.
- Use animations and GIFs to show different states or conditions of the modular elements.
List Any Crucial Lessons Learned
As we looked at before, case studies should emphasize design knowledge and creative processes. Of course, that includes visual, code and UX assumptions that didn’t hold up. There will always be lessons learned during projects, and sharing those is crucial so that others can learn from them.
Two types of lessons add greatly to case studies.
Lessons About The Creative Process
The Made by Many team talks candidly about their struggle not to jump to conclusions while they were building a new tool called Granny Cloud. They also note what happened after a prototype was built and the new constraints that put on their team.
Part of your case study should be an explicit listing of what solutions you matched to your research in the end and why.
Lessons About Failure
The web is a complex medium. A lot of things fail. We get it wrong. A lot. Projects that are finished and pushed live don’t need to hint at all of the dead ends and failures you experienced. A case study is a much better place for those lessons. Walking your readers through these moments reinforces design as a time for exploration and iteration , not only polishing.
The beautiful case studies by Teehan + Lax contain a number of lessons about where they failed: “We knew we needed to pause and take a fresh look.” Over and over, the clear assessments and observations about their process take the reader along their journey to a better solution.
- Be honest. If a design process or tool didn’t work, tell that to your readers, so they don’t have to make the same mistake.
- Speak about ideas of creativity and inspiration. Many of your personal struggles with design and visual ideas will be powerful lessons for other designers.
Define The Quality Of The Experience
We have looked at concepts, process, components and even failures. Our next response may be to ask, “So, was this a high-quality experience?” Can we look back on websites we’ve worked on and be confident that the design had a real impact?
As much as we talk about concrete deliverables, our work as web designers is entwined with emotion . Users and clients feel joy, satisfaction, confidence, even confusion when using the websites and apps we build. Case studies provide us with a chance to define exactly what type of experience we were aiming for and whether or not our work matched up.
The quality of the experience can be explained in your case studies in a few different ways.
Numbers And Analytics
Give readers numerical proof that all your sketches and prototypes actually worked. Include the results of testing because they tell readers how certain features fared. They help us visualize the human reactions our design is creating. Even though numbers are tied to design artifacts, they are a very effective way to measure user experience.
Little worked with Target to improve its corporate and internal communication. Through the success of publications and rewards systems, they can show numerically that their design process is working. For designers and studios selling their services online, these can also be very persuasive to clients.
Quotes And Testimonials
There’s something powerful about hearing directly from users, team members and clients. Short quotes that contain personal observations about the project are often the most accessible to readers. Another option is an interview format, with a longer Q&A from the client or user base. Clear responses from the people involved can make the case study feel truly human-centered. The most effective case studies take it a step further by providing first-hand accounts of a team’s design experience , not only the user experience. This provides real perspective for readers, who will often be other designers.
In their case study for the Knight Fellowships, Mule Design features a quote ( Note: This link points to a version on archive.org as the example was recently taken offline. ) from their client very prominently, a validation of the high-quality experience they designed.
- Use analytics and metrics that connect to your project’s original goals, establishing a link back to the beginning of your case study.
- By pairing quotes with photos, we show who is talking, enabling readers to connect and empathize with them.
How Was The Project Completed And Launched?
As simply as possible, show us a website or project as it exists in real life. That is, after all, what we are paid to do, right? The final product stands as a combination of your human design thinking and evidence that your creative process actually worked. Show it off proudly!
All that research, development and testing of interfaces act as context for this section of your case study. At the end, we should see clear examples of how your project was launched and viewed by the public.
I’ve tried to show that by focusing on process rather than artifact, we can build and share in-depth case studies. The studies allow us to reframe the conversation around design process and the humanity in what we create , rather than perfect deliverables.
Undoubtedly, case studies themselves are a type of complex design artifact. But we do the design community and ourselves a disservice when we fill them with overly rendered and unrealistic mockups of our work. Isometric mockups , for example, are a recent trend, and their staged flashiness obscures any real design solution. Emphasis is incorrectly put on the artifacts themselves as images, not on the process and creative solution behind them.
In his persuasive article “ Learning to See ,” Oliver Reichenstein says:
"The more knowledge you have about a product’s inner workings, that is, if you can see the construction, the hidden mechanism, and glimpse the process leading to its current state, the easier it becomes to see its design."
Digital design is a complex field, one requiring empathy, visual clarity and conceptual depth. If we are to continue to learn and grow as an industry, we must learn first-hand from our colleagues about strategy, critical thinking and design process. Studying the process of others, not just the artifacts, enables us to develop a more nuanced, human-centered approach to our own process, and to present that in carefully organized case studies.
- 75 Instructive Case Studies – This Is How We Built It
- Showcase of Case Studies in Design Portfolios
- 15 Impressive Case Studies from Behance
- Improving Smashing Magazine’s Performance: A Case Study
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How to Write a Case Study [+ Design Tips]
By Ronita Mohan , Aug 26, 2021
You need an impactful medium to share your business successes with potential customers and partners. The best way to showcase your brand is by designing a case study.
Case studies are a method of research and storytelling. They help readers gain a better understanding of a subject or process.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to write a case report that markets your business, as well as some design tips.
Don’t know how to start designing case studies? Create a case study with Venngage’s templates. No design experience required.
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Click to jump ahead:
Case study defined, what is the purpose of a case study, what is the format of a case study, how do you write a business case study, case study design tips, case study faqs.
A case study is used in business, psychology, epidemiology, as well as the medical and scientific fields. These reports are also used for social and political work.
Case studies are defined as documents that examine a person, groups of people, events, operations and processes.
For marketing purposes, a case analysis can be a document that outlines problems faced by a customer. It also shares the solutions a brand provided to solve them, such as in the case report below.
USE THIS CASE STUDY TEMPLATE
Case studies usually share success stories for a business partnership or client. But case reports can also be used to analyze a process that went wrong.
This type of study will outline the need for improvements and suggest next steps. As a result, these case studies are not shared externally.
You can look at some case study examples for inspiration to design your report. Read on to learn about the importance of case studies and how to write them.
Related: What is a Case Study? [+6 Types of Case Studies]
Return to Table of Contents
Case studies are effective marketing tools that build trust and act as social proof for your brand.
Customers are more likely to choose your company if they know that other businesses like theirs have also benefited.
More importantly, when a customer participates in creating a case report with a brand, they endorse the company and their experience with it.
In other words, a business report , like the example below, acts as a recommendation to anyone on the fence about working with your brand or using your products.
CREATE THIS REPORT TEMPLATE
Related: Report Design Ideas to ENGAGE Readers [10+ Tips & Templates]
A case study can be of varying lengths. It can also take a variety of forms, such as a simple two-page document or a Venngage business infographic like the one below.
Most business case studies feature the following five sections.
Related: What is an Infographic? Examples, Templates & Design Tips
- About the company
When creating a case study for marketing, it is best to include a small section about the company. This section can be short, sharing highlights about the company’s goals and missions.
Venngage’s case study templates offer a variety of options for customizing your report.
Overview of the case study
This is a key section of a case study. What is the study about? What was the reason for conducting it? What are the expected results?
The overview doesn’t have to be very long. Two or three paragraphs that sum up what a reader can expect from the report will suffice.
Case study research
You want to show the kind of research, strategy, and approach adopted for your case study. This is the section where you can showcase your process while conducting the analysis, like in this template.
Results of the case study
By far the most important aspect of a case study is the results section. You can choose to share your findings in a few paragraphs.
Alternatively, go down a more visual route by using data visualizations to showcase your results. You can use different types of charts and graphs or use a single number or donut chart.
This case study template is a great example of how to highlight results.
This is also a good section to include a testimonial or quote from your client as social proof.
Related: How to Choose the Best Types of Charts
Conclusion of the case report
You can choose to add a separate conclusion to your case study following the results section. This is where you sum up the process you used in the analysis.
Also, share why the process or campaign was effective and how your brand achieved these results.
Writing a case study requires research and revision. You should have a single objective decided before you start writing.
Case studies in marketing, like the below example, are meant to highlight your company’s successes. Choosing a client to showcase is also an important step in the writing process.
Below, we share the top steps to complete when writing a case study to promote your business.
Determine your objective
Before you start writing case studies, decide what the main objective for this exercise is. Case reports don’t have the potential to go viral, nor are they shareable on social media.
But a case study is an effective tool for converting prospects into customers. They can also encourage business partners to take that final step and sign on the dotted line.
You need to approach your case analysis differently than all other content. This is why you need to have an objective for undergoing the process of writing a case study.
For example, this report shows how the fictional company Toy Crates used the services of Ad Factory to significantly increase its sales.
The main objective of your case study is to highlight your business processes. You should also show the benefits of using your product. But there needs to be a relatable angle for whoever is reading your study.
Possible angles for a case study can be:
- Audience growth
- Launch of a new type of product
- Entry into a new market
- Improvements in conversion rates
- Increased revenue
- Increased traffic or social media impressions
- Technology or software adoption
This case study focuses on lead generation. The report showcases the efforts behind boosting the client’s lead generation program and the successes achieved.
Once you determine the best objective for your analysis, you can move onto the next step. Look for a client that best showcases positive aspects of your company.
Choose the right client
You need a particular type of client as the subject of your case study. This client will be a loyal customer. They should be willing to participate in the study. The client should also align with the objective of your study.
Pick a customer who knows your product inside and out. They should not be someone who used your product once and had success with it.
You want to showcase consistent and high-quality results over a period of time. In this example, the fictional Ad Factory also showcased Loot Box as a client that had success with their brand.
USE THIS CASE REPORT TEMPLATE
You also want to choose customers who have had success directly from using your product. If a brand has seen overall growth and your product was just part of that success, it won’t make for a compelling case study.
Contacting your client for the case study
The customer you choose for your case study should know what the process entails.
Be open in your communication about what you need to put together the case report. This could be communicated through calls, email conversations, or a project management tool.
Set a deadline and share a project timeline so the client knows what the process will look like. Let them know what documentation or statistics you will need for them before you start writing.
Offer something in exchange for participating in the case study. These could be product discounts, a temporary upgrade, a mention in your newsletter, social media, or increased brand awareness.
USE THIS CASE REPORT TEMPLATE
It is imperative that you let the customer know how their information and data will be used. Tell them if you’re posting the case analysis to your blog, sharing it on YouTube, or with your email subscribers.
Some clients may not want their professional information shared with large audiences, so clarify this step of the process first.
Related: 40+ Timeline Template Examples and Design Tips
Research your case study
Once your client agrees to participate in the case analysis, you can begin researching. Remember the objective of your case study and research the subject accordingly.
For example, we wanted to show how infographics help businesses grow their audience. We contacted our user, ChadSan , who had seen massive growth after adding infographics to their marketing campaigns.
We put our findings into a research infographic along with quotes from the client, charts and graphs.
To do this, we researched the content ChadSan created before and compared their traffic to when they started using infographics.
It’s also important to look at the industry your client is in so you have an idea of what success looks like in that sector.
Conducting interviews with clients is a good way to get information for your case report.
You can hold interviews via video call, which you should record to double-check later or conduct the interview via email.
Email interviews might require follow-ups if you need further clarification on particular questions.
Asking the right questions is crucial during the research phase. You don’t want ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer. You need qualified information and data to build out a case study, like the one below.
USE THIS CASE REPORT TEMPLATE
For example, we asked our contact at ChadSan for her experience using infographics in her marketing. We also asked about her main challenges, why she had chosen Venngage and the benefits of using Venngage.
This is also the stage when you can ask for concrete examples of how your product benefited your client.
We asked ChadSan to share some examples of the infographics they had created using our templates. This helped show our product in use, further social proof of the advantages of using Venngage infographics.
Create the case study outline
With the client interview completed, gather the data you have and start writing the outline for the case report. Remember the case study format we shared earlier when you’re preparing the outline.
This will help you design a case study that is memorable, like this example.
For a case study blog post, you should prepare the following:
- Overview of the study
- The results, with charts
- Call to action
Write a few notes for each point that you can elaborate on in the next writing stage. By following this process, you can build out a case study like this example.
Draft your case report
The outline is your starting point for drafting the case report. Like any other piece of content you create, a case study needs to be engaging. It also needs a beginning, a middle and an end.
Use classic marketing storytelling approaches when writing case studies. Introduce your characters (the client), the conflict (the business problem), the resolution (the benefits of your product).
By using this technique, you can write a case study like this example.
Conclude with an analysis of your success and a testimonial recommending your product and brand.
Finalize your case study
Revise your study and ask one or two colleagues to glance over it to catch any mistakes you may have missed.
You should send the report to the client you’re showcasing for their approval. When you and the client are satisfied with the case study, an infographic study like the one below is ready to be published.
Share a link to the case study with the client to promote on their platforms. You can share the case report on your social channels, with partners and to your email subscribers.
Now that you know how to write your case report, here are some tips on case study design. Improving the aesthetics and usability of your study will make it memorable to read. In the long run, the study will help boost brand awareness.
Use a case study template
Make the case study design process easier by using a template. Venngage offers a variety of customizable case study templates , like this one, to make any study attractive and engaging.
Choose a template from Venngage’s library and edit it to fit your needs. Change the text, upload visuals or choose images from our stock photo integration. Pick icons from the 40,000+ icons available to better reflect your story.
With Venngage for Business , you can get priority support while designing your study.
You can also access real-time collaboration features so you can design your case study with team members.
Incorporate white space
A great way to make your case study engaging is to incorporate one important rule of design: use plenty of white space.
White space is all the blank areas around your text and visuals. This space gives your information room to breathe and makes it easier for readers to absorb your story.
Take a look at this template for inspiration. There is plenty of room around each element. This makes the study easier to navigate.
Write short paragraphs of two or three lines and use bullet points to create more space around your text. Leave room around your visuals, as well, so users can move through the sections easily.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Design Thinking
Visualize data for your case study
Case studies include a great deal of information but that doesn’t mean they need to be packed full of text. Visuals are a great way to catch the eye and keep users interested in your report.
Statistics are a key element of case reports but numbers on their own can get lost. Instead, visualize your data using Venngage’s chart maker and graph maker .
Design pie charts, bar graphs, donut charts, line and area graphs, or maps to visualize numerous types of data for your case studies, like in this example.
Related: How to Tell a Story With Data: A Guide for Beginners
Add branding to case reports
Branding is an important facet of case reports. Anybody reading the study should know which companies were involved, both the client and your brand.
Add recognizable brand elements such as your logo and the client’s logo. Use your brand colors and brand fonts throughout your case study design.
Ensure that your design adheres to your brand guidelines , including your brand voice.
Take a look at this case study infographic Venngage created with Baptist Care. We incorporated both our logos in the infographic. We also used the brand colors and fonts of both companies.
You can easily add your branding to case report templates using Venngage’s My Brand Kit tool. Input your website and the Autobrand feature will apply your branding across all your designs.
What subjects are covered in a case study?
Depending on the field of study, case reports can examine a variety of subjects, including:
- a group of people
- an organization or business
For example, case studies in psychology may be focused on a person or groups of people. Medical case reports might study events or groups of patients.
Businesses can examine other organizations, as in this example, or events.
What are the characteristics of a case study?
Case studies are characterized by the units or subjects they examine. These units need to be studied in totality. Every aspect of the person, organization or event needs to be included.
Reports should also be qualitative as well as quantitative. This means that case study research describes problems and solutions.
It also backs those assumptions up with data. Both aspects must be included in the analysis, as in this example.
How can you design a case study with Venngage?
Venngage makes it easy to design case studies by offering numerous editable templates. Create an account with Venngage and browse the library for a template.
Customize the template, like the one below, in the easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor. Add text, pick colors , icons, add photos and charts and graphs.
Upload photos with Venngage. Drag and drop images into the Venngage editor and customize your reports in seconds.
Use a case study to highlight your brand’s successes
A case study can be a powerful marketing tool that showcases the advantages of using your product.
By highlighting real clients and their successes, you can provide social proof to potential customers and partners.
Designing case studies has never been easier. Use Venngage’s templates to create engaging reports to impress your audiences and help you grow your client base.