UX Bootcamps case studies tell nothing about your product design skills

This year, I’ve reviewed more than 400 portfolios, a large portion of them from candidates with little or no product design experience. Each follows the same pattern of presenting a few imaginary case studies — a lot of effort that says little about the designer’s real-world skills and abilities. Is there a better approach?

Finding the first product design job is tough. To get a job, you need a portfolio, but to get a portfolio you need a job.

The good news is — you already have your first real-life project. You need to sell a product (your skills) and create a landing page (your portfolio). So instead of focusing on imaginary UX bootcamp case studies, do some product design work:

  • Who are the users? Who is your target audience? What kind of company might they hire for?
  • What information are they looking for? What are their pain points? (like, not knowing that a case study is a personal or study project before reading through 4 pages is a pain)
  • What is your value proposition? What makes you stand out from everybody else? Anything from “my experience working in a bakery makes me business savvy” to “my education in architecture gives me the ability to see complex systems through” beats “I love creating delightful interfaces that solve users’ problems” (no one like to create bad experiences that solve nothing).
  • What related skills do you have already and can highlight? For example, 50% of product design is psychology and understanding people — was there a project in your life where you could practice that?

And:

Product design workflow
  • Forget about the process. You don’t join a company and start doing double diamonds. You do what you can do with the resources and limitations you have. Showcasing your process without having anything shipped is pointless.
  • Making a case study out of an unsolicited Netflix redesign doesn’t show product design skills, it shows “making case study” skills.

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Elena Borisova

Combining data and psychology for product and design decision-making | Head of Design at DeepL | elenaborisova.com