How to Write Project Case Studies for Your Portfolio

Writing case studies might be the most dreaded part of building a design portfolio. After all the work and time it takes curating projects, designing pages, saving out images, etc., who wants to actually sit down and EXPLAIN it all? But next to your About page, case studies are the most important part of your portfolio.

Aside from showing your experience and skill, case studies give your potential client or employer an idea of how you work and think. I mean, case studies are basically the whole point of building a portfolio — which is why Semplice (my company) was built around just that. Especially with more complex work such as UX design, a case study is a must to explain your work. Of course, your case study approach depends on your personal style and goals, but I generally recommend these rules when creating your project pages.

1. Write down your case studies before you do almost anything else

I know this is not as fun as designing your website but like most things in life, it helps to get the hardest task out of the way first. Near the end of the project you will just want to press that launch button, so anything you write at that time will be rushed and lazy. Or even worse, you will hit a wall and procrastinate launching the whole thing.

2. Keep it brief & caption everything

People are usually scanning your projects to get a general idea of your skills and the way you work. Don’t write a novel, just share a short paragraph or two that makes your project interesting and relatable to your reader.

An image from Liz Well’s portfolio. Check out lizvwells.com to see case studies done right.

3. Include the right details

It all depends on your personal style and you don’t need to literally copy/paste this format, but your case study should loosely follow this outline or provide this information:

4. Give credit & explain your role

This is especially important if it was a team project. If I just see a list of names without their roles, I might be a little suspicious about what you actually did on this project. But whether or not this was a team project, it’s helpful for us to understand what role you played. This could be as simple as listing “art direction & design” beside the project summary. Forgetting this detail is crucial and can mean the difference between getting hired or not.

“We should finish reading with a sense of your personality and design process.”

5. Write in your voice

You and your client might know what they mean, but acronyms and buzzwords only distance your reader. Don’t try to impress with lofty language, just share your work in your own voice and be as clear as possible. We should finish reading with a sense of your personality and design process.

6. Don’t image dump

I’ve seen countless portfolios that either don’t include a case study at all or just have one sentence with a bunch of photos below for the reader to sort out on their own. That doesn’t sell your work the way it deserves. (Plus no copy = bad SEO, if you care about that.)

7. Think of each case study like a magazine feature

This goes for your content and layout. Using a similar page template for your case studies is fine, but you should at least adjust it to fit the project and look of the work.

Self-taught Designer & Maker. Un-Employed. Founder of https://www.semplice.com/ Formerly Spotify — More About me: http://www.vanschneider.com

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