I’m ditching case studies for case stories

There’s no flavor without the spices

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

People love stories. Stories are what we make in present and what makes our past and the future. They’re the prime factor of our thoughts, traits and character. As a species, I don’t think we can ever get enough of them. We crave for them while watching a film, reading a book, attending a presentation or meeting a new person. Speak stats & data and no-one cares, weave a story and you have their attention. This is something we as designers have been exploring (and exploiting) for quite some time. However, I still believe there’s lot more potential to it and it should start with how we present our work.

Getting people to read, understand and appreciate your work isn’t an easy job. Today, when we have variety of mediums available to showcase and present, most of us still tend to stick to the classic way of text & images-based case studies. Not that I have anything against that (actually I feel it has some merits of its own), I find most examples of this conventional system missing a tying thread — story.

For most of the screen based UX projects that I’ve seen, frankly, the case study has a pretty standard format. Describe the brief, talk about the process a bit, mention some surveys and personas, add some initial explorations along with process images… few scrolls later, voila! there’s a hi-detail mockups which claims to be optimal solution to the problem stated. Everything sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well no. Studies are boring. Most of the people I know (including me) scroll past most of the parts conveniently ignoring your several months’ worth of work. No one actually spends time and effort to read every word you wrote and every sketch you made. Not because the words you wrote are hollow or meaningless, they lack flavor.

In past, I have hired for multiple entry level design roles and have scanned through hundreds of case studies and portfolios. After going through those, I started seeing definite patterns and repetitive content. Mostly people would conduct surveys and make personas for name-sake and never mention them along with final design. The process was un-surprisingly same for most of the projects irrespective of their brief and requirements. There are several other things mentioned in beginning and never cared about towards the end or vice-versa. These aren’t the things that makes you stand out. Neither does using the jargon and the buzz words. For a wow factor, give the person what he/she is looking for — the story behind.

Tell me the ‘actual’ challenges you faced. Talk about how your company lacked technical resources to turn your first idea to reality so you had to create something keeping that into consideration. Tell me where you failed, what you learnt along the way and what you think of it now when it’s all done. Self-retrospect. Talk about why you chose to work on this project at all. Speak for the details you spent days tuning but is somehow lost in the presentation. Tell what matters.

I, like most other designers and design recruiters out there would gladly ignore missing personas and a smaller number of participants in your survey or less design iterations for these things. Every project is a collection of incidents, memories, learning and experiences so don’t depreciate its value by converting it into a study. This world is made of stories and your little project is no different.

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Multi-disciplinary designer & Illustrator. I write whatever I’ve learnt so far about design, development and other things I care about.