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The commoditization of the UX case study

  • Work

(This is just a short musing!)

I’ve done, I think, four portfolio reviews with the folks over at General Assembly.

I enjoy it, mostly (sometimes the imposter syndrome kicks in and I get self-conscious about whether or not I’m bringing value to these young designers). I get to talk to groups of 3 to 6 designers from each graduating batch, and have them play back their portfolios to me.

It’s not a failing of the individuals, to be sure, but—

It. is. all. the. same.

  • Each case study starts and ends in exactly identical ways — though some students do expand on the more insightful things rather than the process;
  • Too much emphasis on the output rather than the outcomes, even for the self-identified UX researchers of the bunch;
  • The design process used might be ‘textbook’, but things in real working situations might not play out exactly that way in those steps;

So… what does this have to do with me?

Because of course, everything is about me.

I published my own portfolio in 2016 (or maybe 2017), which is a lifetime — and two jobs — ago. At that time, the UX portfolio scene hasn’t been commoditized to the same regurgitation of “the design process”. I remember scrambling to find other portfolios with case studies that I could benchmark as a best practice. You know, like a real UX nerd.

Looking at my own portfolio now, though, I honestly can’t tell if I would pick myself from a stack of other portfolios. It’s not the exact same design process as the GA grads have, but the construct of it is largely similar: problem statements, what we did to unpacking them, and how we came up with solutions. Pretty flows and sketches and wireframes, and then the grand reveal.


I do remember getting commends from reviewers during that first job search with this portfolio, on the effort made and time spent on crafting it out.

How do I tell this story of working on awesome stuff with awesome people, without going through this template of a case study? Much to think about, now that I’m moving along in my career.

I suppose that is a design problem to be solved. 🤓

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