A lot of us working as designers often find this question staring at us eminently — how can I express how I do this?
It is a caveman misconception that portfolios aren’t important to us and everyday more and more of us seem to have to take up this daunting task. In fact that won’t do either, you gotta really get into the details and why?
Good if you documented that
Often we designers do not have a chance to document a process in the urgency of deadlines but when we do (and we have a lot of artefacts that help in the process) it should be fairly easy to get your documentation up and running on a case study.
Your case study as a pitch or presentation to a key stakeholder
The case study is a great way to earn trust with clients seeking to recruit you so as long as we look at it as a pitch to someone important we are getting most of it right.
This helps align with business goals and vision, therefore reducing the risk of unrequited conversations and arguments.
Use GIFs, storyboards, charts — you’re the designer!
Make it look good and useful. Add the important things to it that help reduce text and add visual elements to it for easy and fun contextualisation.
It is not about how you impress others but how you express yourself that matters.
My 8 key principles to a perfect design case study
1. A meaningful overview
In brief and direct words explain to your audience what the project is about stating your goals. Following it up with a quick snippet of the actual results adds to the user’s intention to read on.
I usually tend to go into a little more depth with the key objectives and responsibilities of the project, but it isn’t always necessary (it works for me in India as not everyone is aware of what my job entails).
2. The 70 - 30 rule
70% picture and 30% text is the ideal composition for your documentation. Pull out pictures from the ol’ archives, take screenshots, make interaction GIFs — help your users visualise the content, than having to read through it word by word.
One of the most inclusive additions can be an evolution of a form or a mark or a flow, document it’s different stages in pictures and it tells a story greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Decision-making factors
It is imperative for a product or UX designer to explain few of the decisions made if not most. Noting down the stakeholders responsible, the scale of the project and the core principles around design decisions gives your readers a better perspective into the designs you created.
4. Creation and design process
Place your most flare into this, how a designer organises this part of the process tells the reader about the priorities, their skillset and the actual work done — it is important to note lose track of the realities of the project at this point.
Display an evolutionary creative process in ways mentioned before in this article, start off by talking about the key features of your design. Only if required, write a little about the flow or the process. Remember, visuals should aid the reading.
5. Use cases
From what I have seen use cases are the best ending note to a case study, jumping directly into actionable and how the user uses the product and the design we’ve just talked about.
I usually keep my use cases in the format of an informative visual.
6. If you can get client testimonials, voila!
This is a bit of a problem but if you can get these sorted through asking focused questions then you’ve got yourself the entire pie. Ask questions like,
7. Your CTAs must be bold, clear and contextual
What does the client, designer or viewer do after reading through your case study? Should they take a look at your visual design skills, should they get into a conversation with you or just follow you on your social to keep an eye on your work?
Make your CTA very clear and make it sit exactly where it needs to. Customise your CTAs across the site to the context of its position. After all, they have to click a button to get in touch with you.
8. SEO is as important as all other languages
Use keywords specific to the project you are doing, for example “mobile prototyping” or “branding”.
You can test out search terms by using tools such as Wordtracker and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. For a crash course in SEO that won’t overwhelm you, check out this article.
With these principles and measures in place, it should be in no time that you have an interesting way to look at documenting your design. It will clean up your initial documentation during the project as well as help you re-iterate over your processes as you pen case studies.
The portfolio should be treated like any other design project, with an agile loop.
After this is done, a suggestion is to pass small parts of your portfolio to other designers for feedback, for example a single case study or visual design project — this can help you gather varied feedback as there is no one way to write case studies. In fact a whole lot of designers are on the lookout for people to pass work onto or to work with. Your portfolio is a great way to form a good network, give to and receive from this community and grow you into your discipline as well. Facebook groups like Designers Guild and HH Design are bustling with such posts everyday. They’ve both got warm communities actively making a change in the global design community.
Alternatively, get active on Twitter, and Medium; post your portfolio pieces to Behance and Dribbble. Film your process on YouTube and Instagram — blast it out there and I’m sure you’re going to have some busy weeks ahead no matter where you stand.
This was originally published to document my learnings through the process of redesigning my own portfolio.