As designers, one of the first things we think of when we create our UX case study is what visuals we can add to spice things up. But the visuals you add to your case study cannot just be pretty decorations—they have to help you sell your skills and thus get a job interview. That’s why you should also use visuals to show your design process and not only your final design. Let’s go through what visuals you can include in your UX case study and 3 important tips you should keep in mind when you create your visuals—including some handy tools you can use.
What Visuals Should You Include in Your UX Case Study?
When you think of visuals in your UX case study, you might jump straight into beautiful images of your final design. However, you’ll sell yourself short if you do that! Remember, your UX case study should tell a story of your journey from problem statement to final design. There’s therefore a lot more visuals you can include, besides just the final product!
Include Images of Your Works in Progress
Showcase your process through your visuals. You’ll demonstrate that you understand your design processes and workflows. Images of your works in progress also help you tell your story—it’s like a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary, if you will.
Some of the works in progress you can show include:
- Sketches: of your design ideas, inspirations, paper prototypes, etc.;
- Videos or photos of sessions: for instance, of user interviews or user testing sessions you’ve conducted;
- Photos of your notes: of ideas, user feedback that you’ve jotted down during an interview, critique from colleagues, etc.;
- Post-its or whiteboards: when you’ve used them in discussions or ideation sessions, images of Post-its or whiteboards allow you to show your hard work while also keeping your word count small; and
- Wireframes: show the first few iterations of your design through the wireframes you’ve created.
Showcase your works in progress through visuals in your UX case study—they’ll help highlight the work you put in to reach your final design. Author/copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and the Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Balance between showing off your process on the one hand and spamming your photos on the other. Your images should not overwhelm a recruiter!
Illustrate or Visualize Your Process
Besides images, you can also create illustrations to help you tell the story of your design process. You could, for example:
- Use charts and graphs to visualize the results of your user research, such as the results of an online survey with 50 users. This is a great way for you to summarize key points in an easy-to-digest format.
- Draw timelines and journey maps to summarize your design process or illustrate your understanding of users. For instance, you can use a user journey map to highlight “a day in the life” of your user.
- Use diagrams and graphs to demonstrate the impacts of your work in an aesthetically appealing way. Visually communicate how you’ve increased conversion rates, how well-received your app is, etc.
Charts, illustrations and diagrams are great ways to make your UX case studies more visually interesting and convey information more efficiently. Author/copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and the Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
And, Of Course, Showcase Your Final Design
Don’t be shy to display your amazing final product in your UX case study. Show a few photos, a video or even an embedded interactive media of your prototype to wow recruiters. As with other visuals you include in your UX case study, take care not to go overboard with showing your final product. You want recruiters to get a good idea of what you’ve done, without being tired of seeing the 20th photo of your design.
Showcase images or videos of your final design to impress recruiters. Author/copyright holder: Gabriela Bryndal. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
3 Tips for Creating Visuals in Your UX Case Study
Now that you have a clear idea of what kinds of visuals to include in your UX case study, let’s go through 3 essential tips that will help you create those visuals.
1. Focus on the Process Too, Not Just the Final Destination
Your UX case study is about your process as much as it’s about the final product. We can’t emphasize this enough.
Your visuals should showcase your entire journey from start to finish. You should therefore spread your visuals throughout your entire UX case study. If you find yourself adding a lot of photos to only one part of your design process, pause and see how you can cut down on the number of photos you add here, while you increase the number of visuals you add in other parts of your process.
Always remember to photograph and document your design process! In order to include visuals in each major step of your journey, you’d need to have first captured those visuals. You don’t want to be in a situation where you need photos of your user testing session, only to realize you’ve forgotten to take them! That said, if you do run into that situation, see if you can recreate some visuals. For instance, you can perhaps recreate some sketches that you’ve thrown away.
2. Make Your Visuals Tell Your Story
Remember that your visuals have a purpose: to help you tell the story of your design project. You should not add images, graphs and videos purely for aesthetic reasons. Think about how each visual helps you communicate your design process—and if it doesn’t, remove it.
For example, you can include a photo of a wall of Post-it notes to showcase an intense brainstorming session that you’ve conducted to ideate solutions to your users’ problem. You can also include multiple photos of hand-drawn sketches of a prototype—perhaps arranged in a collage—because they demonstrate your ability to quickly iterate your designs based on feedback. The point is, each visual you add needs to serve a purpose.
3. Use These Tools to Help You Create Visuals
If you don’t have a background in visual design, you might find the prospect of creating visuals for your UX case study intimidating. However, recruiters expect UX case studies to look good—even if you have a non-visual role such as a UX researcher. After all, your UX case study is a designed product itself and has to be as smooth and pleasant as possible.
Thankfully, you have a range of tools available to help you. The tools we highlight below are not commissioned, and they’re as bias-free as humanly possible. Of course, you’ll be able to find many more tools that can help you.
Use Canva to Edit Images and Create Charts
Canva is a free web-based tool that can help you touch up images and create charts for your UX case study.
Use Canva to create image collages, charts and more. Author/copyright holder: Canva. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
For example, you can use Canva to create a collage containing a few photos of your user testing session. That way, you’ll be able to show multiple aspects of your session without filling your case study with too many images.
Create a collage of your user testing session—such as this one we’ve created—in a user-friendly interface with Canva. Author/copyright holder: Canva. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
You can also create graphs and charts to visualize and summarize any data you want to show in your UX case study. For instance, you can create a pie chart of the responses to a survey question.
You can use Canva to create pie charts and line graphs, too. Author/copyright holder: Canva. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
Use Illustrator to Create Custom Illustrations
Adobe Illustrator is an amazing tool to create custom illustrations with. However, the app is not free to use and has a learning curve.
If you’re already familiar with Illustrator, then it’s great for you to add that extra touch of customized look and feel to your visuals. For example, you could create illustrations that use the same colors and iconography as your UX design portfolio site.
We’ve used Adobe Illustrator to create the custom images you’ve seen here—similarly, you can use Illustrator to create highly customized visuals for your UX case study. Author/copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and the Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Use ImageOptim and TinyPNG to Optimize the File Size of Your Images
If there’s one thing we designers tend to forget about visuals on our UX case studies, it’s file size optimization! You need to make sure that the images you use are sufficiently high-quality, while also being light on data. You don’t want to sour your recruiter’s experience where they have to wait a few seconds for each image to load, do you?
This is where ImageOptim and TinyPNG come in. We recommend that you use ImageOptim to optimize JPEG images and TinyPNG to optimize PNG images.
ImageOptim is a web app that uses an advanced algorithm to optimize your images.
ImageOptim’s web app doesn’t have a pretty interface, but its powerful image compression algorithm will help you greatly cut down on file size. Author/copyright holder: ImageOptim. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
TinyPNG is a similar web app that’s more user-friendly but focused on PNGs.
TinyPNG uses a cute panda mascot and has an easy-to-use interface. It’s great for compressing PNG images with transparency. Author/copyright holder: TinyPNG. Copyright terms and license: Fair use.
In general, we recommend that you keep each image below 100KB. However, image optimization is all about a balance between image quality and file size. The more you optimize your images to be lightweight, the more details you’ll lose. You’ll have to use your own judgement to choose the level of quality you can accept at a small-enough file size.
The Take Away
Visuals are a key part of your UX case study—even if you have a non-visual UX role. To be truly impactful, you should make sure your images demonstrate your progress from starting point to finish line. This means you should include visuals of your works in progress as well as your final design. You can also use visuals to make data—for instance, results for a survey you conducted—more interesting.
We have 3 tips for creating visuals for your UX case study:
- Focus not only on the final design but also on your process.
- Make sure every single visual you include helps tell the story of your project.
- Use tools such as Canva and ImageOptim to create amazing visuals for your UX case study.
References and Where to Learn More
Here are the websites of the tools we’ve recommended above:
- Canva: https://www.canva.com
- Illustrator: https://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html
- ImageOptim: https://imageoptim.com/online
- TinyPNG: https://tinypng.com
Hero image: Author / Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.