How to Write a Case Study

Don't miss this step in your work

Sometimes the most difficult part of our job as designers is to sit back, look at what we have accomplished, and take the next steps: photograph the work, back it up, archive it, document the digital and preserve the printed pieces. Another step you don't want to miss is one that can really help you understand and market your work: the case study.

When you finish a job, sit down and review what you have done and really look at the process in detail. Then, write about it. Use this analysis to help refine your work process and improve your client relationships. Keep the studies in your portfolio or on your website to show your successes to potential clients or employers, and to inform them about the way you work as a designer. Having these notes will also save time when you want to enter award contests or exhibits.

The simple way to approach a case study is to outline the company, the objective, your approach and the outcome. See the sample branding study from Foundry Communications in this issue.

Here are some suggestions.

Title the case study. Think of how your work helped the client and use this to attract the reader; what was unique about this job?

About you: Your name and position/title and the names, titles and positions of any others who worked on this project (photographers, illustrators, writers, web developers, project managers, production artists, printers, etc)

Client: company description.

Objective: the project description, what did the client need?

• Tell how the client’s design problem was identified. What audience were they aiming at? Were you provided with a brief?

• Demonstrate your process in solving the problem. Did you re-define the problem or the objectives? What challenges did you encounter? Be specific: what kind of research did you do? How did you reach your solution? What was your rationale? Include a few illustrations: planning sketches, inspirations, concept or process sketches, before and after images.

• Discuss the process you used in working with the client. Did your solution vary from the client brief? Were there any challenges or conflicts that you resolved by using design thinking, reliance on the brief, the rationale or other means? Did you work with sustainability issues in your process?

• Show how the design was implemented.

• Discuss the final results for you and for the client. Did you plan any measurements for success? Include quantifiable, substantiated information when available.

• Was there anything in particular about this job and the solution that stands out for you?

Check out these case study links in the GDC website Library:

Do your Case Studies Win Business?

Case Studies Worth Studying


By Peggy Cady CGD, FGDC