Design Portfolio

How to write a narrative-driven product design case study

Craft your strongest product design case study yet with our step-by-step guide. Learn how to showcase your skills and tell a compelling story around your work.

7 min read

October 26, 2022

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mobile app case study

As a product designer, you might spend most of your time on user research, functionality, and user testing. But if you want to grow a successful product design career, you also need to present your work in a compelling way. This guide explains how to write a product design case study that makes other people want to hire you. It also includes several examples of amazing case studies to inspire you along with tips from senior designers and mentors from the Dribbble community.

What is a product design case study?

A product design case study is an in-depth analysis of a particular product or project, aimed at showcasing your design process, challenges, and outcomes. It usually includes information about who was involved in the project, the goals and objectives, research and ideation processes, design decisions and iterations, and the final product's impact on the user and the market.

A product design case study is an in-depth analysis of a product or project, aimed at showcasing your design process, challenges, and outcomes.

Case studies provide a comprehensive understanding of the product design process, from the initial ideation to the final launch, highlighting the key factors that led to its success or failure. Product design case studies also showcase your design skills to prospective clients and employers, making it an important part of your product design portfolio.

What is the goal of a product design case study?

If you're a designer growing your career, the main goal of your product design case studies is to share your design thinking process with hiring managers or prospective clients. Adding at least one case study to your product design portfolio can help you convince someone that you have the creativity and technical skills needed to solve their problems.

It's one thing to list on your product design resume that you're capable of designing high-fidelity prototypes, but it's another to show exactly how you've helped other businesses overcome design-related challenges. A well-written case study shows design managers that you have experience with prototyping, animations, wireframes, user testing, and other tasks, making it easier to land a product design interview, or even better, a job offer.

What makes a good product design case study?

To make your case study as appealing as possible, make sure it checks all the right boxes.

A great product design case study:

  • Tells a story
  • Makes text and visuals come together to show how you added value to the design project
  • Shows that you made important decisions
  • Gives readers an understanding of your thought process
  • Clearly defines the problem and the result
  • Shows who you are as a designer

Product design case study template ✏️

Ready to start your next case study? Use our product design case study template created by Lead Product Designer @KPMG Natalia Veretenyk. Natalia is also a design mentor in Dribbble's Certified Product Design Course helping new and seasoned product designers build their skills!

1. Project overview

Provide some background on the client featured in your case study. If you didn’t actually work with a client and are showcasing a course project, you can still provide context about the product or user you are designing for. Explain the design problem and describe what problem you were trying to solve.

Here's an example: "ABC Company was selling 10,000 subscriptions per month, but its churn rate was over 35% due to a design flaw that wasn't discovered during usability testing. The company needed to redesign the product to reduce its churn rate and increase user satisfaction."

2. User research

Your case study should include some information about the target users for the project. This can help prospective clients or employers feel more comfortable about your ability to design products that appeal to their customers.

To include user research in your case study, start by explaining the methods used to collect data. This could be through surveys, interviews, user testing, or other methods. You should also explain the tools used to analyze and interpret the data, such as persona development or journey mapping.

You can also include information about the target audience itself. This can include demographic information like age, gender, location, education, and income. You should also mention any other relevant information about the user base, such as their interests, habits, or pain points.

3. Ideating, wireframes, & prototyping

In this section, describe how you brainstormed ideas, created wireframes, and built prototypes to develop your product design. Be sure to explain the tools and techniques you used, such as sketching, whiteboarding, or digital software like Figma or Adobe XD. Also, highlight any challenges you faced during this process and how you overcame them.

Include multiple images here to show the evolution of your design, showing the first and second rounds of iterations.

4. Visual design

Next, explain how you translated your wireframes and prototypes into a visually appealing design. Discuss your design choices, such as color schemes, typography, and imagery, and explain how they support the user experience. Include high-quality visuals of your final design and any design system or style guide you created. Lead Product Designer & Design Mentor Natalia Veretenyk recommends showcasing 4-10 main key mockup screens.

5. Usability testing

Write a short introduction to the usability testing you conducted and summarize your usability test findings. Explain the methods you used to conduct user testing, such as remote testing, in-person testing, or A/B testing. Describe the feedback you received from users and any changes you made to the design based on that feedback. If you didn’t have time to make any changes, write notes on what you might try next.

6. Outcomes and results

In this final section, you should summarize the impact of your design on the user and the business. Write up what you learned throughout the project. Insert 1 or 2 sentences summarizing the impact of your design on the user and the business. Include any relevant metrics, such as increased user engagement, higher conversion rates, or improved customer satisfaction.

As a bonus, you can also reflect on the design process and any lessons learned. This shows prospective clients and employers your ability to learn from your experiences and continuously improve your design skills.

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Product design case study examples

If you need a little inspiration, check out the product design case study examples below. The designers did a great job explaining their design decisions and showing off their skills.

Instabook App by Tiffany Mackay

Tiffany Mackay's Instabook case study starts out strong with a concise description of the client. She also includes a clear description of the design challenge: creating a social platform for authors, publishers, and readers. The case study includes wireframes and other visuals to show readers how Mackay developed new features and refined the tool's overall user experience.

Crypto App by Brittney Singleton

The Crypto App case study is an excellent example of how to create a case study even if you don't have much paid experience. Brittney Singleton created the Crypto App as a project for one of Dribbble's courses, but she managed to identify a problem affecting the crypto marketplace and come up with a solution. Singleton's case study contains plenty of visuals and explains the decisions she made at each stage of the project.

PoppinsMail by Antonio Vidakovik

Antonio Vidakovik's case study has some of the best visuals, making it a great example to follow as you work on your portfolio. His user flow charts have a simple design, but they feature bright colors and succinct descriptions of each step. Vidakovik also does a good job explaining his user interface design decisions.

product design case study example

Super Walk by Micah Lanier

Micah Lanier offers a textbook example of an effective UX case study. It starts out with a quick overview of the client and a description of their problem. Micah also provides a detailed overview of the steps he took to identify user pain points, brainstorm solutions, and test several iterations before delivering a finished product. The Super Walk case study also includes plenty of visuals to show readers how the product evolved from the beginning to the end of the design process.

To the Park by Evangelyn

Evangelyn's case study is another example of how you can show off your skills even if you don't have years of professional experience. She created the To the Park app as a part of Dribbble's Certified Product Design Course, so she had plenty of opportunities to create appealing visuals and conduct user testing. Her product design case study explains exactly how her design solves the initial challenge she identified.

dog walking app product design case study

How many case studies should I include in my product design portfolio?

If you have minimal experience, aim for two or three case studies. Like many junior product designers, you can use projects from a product design course you’ve completed if you don't have a lot of professional experience. More experienced product designers should have up to five. Too many case studies can be overwhelming for recruiters, so don't feel like you need to include dozens of projects.

Grow your product design portfolio 

To get more product design jobs, try adding at least one product design case study to your portfolio website. Case studies include real-world examples of your work, making it easier for prospective clients and employers to assess your abilities. They're different from resumes because they show people exactly what you can do instead of just listing your skills, making it more likely that you'll get hired.

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