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Portfolio and Case Study Tips from an Early Career Designer

Patience, grace, and setting achievable goals are your secret weapons

UX/UI Design
5 minute read

Whether you're fresh out of a UX BootCamp, making a career shift, or simply seeking to level up your UX portfolio or case studies, you’ve come to the right place. I've been in your shoes recently, and I get it—creating an eye-turning UX portfolio is no walk in the park. There were many days when my main aim was to work on my portfolio but I had a hard time building up the motivation to get started. It took me a solid few months after my UX/UI Bootcamp with Memorisely to get it up and running, and it was not without it's share of blockers and challenges.

I'm here to tell you that patience, grace, and setting achievable goals are your secret weapons. In this post, I'm excited to share the tips and insights that have helped me, as an early career designer, emerge from bootcamp with a strong portfolio that I am proud of and that gets traction in job applications.

Keep Weekly Reflections

Throughout your projects, including your Bootcamp experiences, take notes on your thoughts, feelings, weekly progress and success, the obstacles you conquered, and what you learned. Save these reflections in Google Docs or tools like Notion. Trust me; attempting to recall all the details later can be quite challenging. I even save quick screenshots to add context to my notes.

Seek Input and Collaboration from Your Team

Creating a UX portfolio is a bit like solving a complex puzzle. You've got the pieces, but maybe you need some guidance to put them together. Collaboration is always beneficial, start by reaching out to the teams you worked with. Ask them for feedback and, more importantly, a conversation. Talking through your case studies with your teammates can provide valuable insights and help you articulate your design process more effectively.

Use Expert Resources

Take advantage of valuable resources like this article Case Study Factory. Or this one for UX Research (UXR) case studies. These articles helped guide me and provided examples of what to include and how to structure my case studies.

Collect Reference Portfolios That Inspire You

Don't limit yourself to lists of the "best" portfolios. Explore a variety of UX portfolios and save the ones that resonate with you. Pay attention to text styles, case study layouts, headings, and any personalised elements that capture your attention. Keep a set of bookmarks for reference; it's like having a design inspiration library at your fingertips. This collection process can also help you hone in on your brand or style.

Highlight Your Impact and Value

Remember, a case study doesn't have to cover a start-to-finish project. You can spotlight your role and the value you contributed, even if the product isn't live yet. Showcase your problem-solving skills, the impact you've had on the project's success, and the value you contributed to the project.


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Discover Your Brand Over Time

Defining your personal style or brand can be intimidating. But don't worry; it's a journey. Let your brand or style emerge naturally as you work on your portfolio. With each iteration and feedback session, your brand will become clearer and more authentic. I sketched many options before finding a version that subtly highlighted my personality.

Use Headings to Tell Your Story

Effective storytelling is a key skill in UX design, and your portfolio is no exception. Your headings and titles should provide a clear picture of what you did. When you create a narrative structure, hiring managers will be able to understand your journey and outcomes just by reading the title of your case study and your headings!

Here are a few examples:

“The Context”  ➡  “Why are we building a mentorship web app?”

“The Solution”  ➡  “Here’s the final result”

“Competitive Analysis”  ➡  “Let’s start with generative research”

“How might we…?”  ➡ “Define: Understanding User Needs”

“Coding and Affinity Mapping”  ➡  “Capture that qualitative data!”

See what I mean, it adds texture to your case studies!

Connect with Trusted UX Mentors

Your journey becomes a lot smoother when you have a few seasoned UX mentors by your side. Tap into your network of UX professionals on platforms like ADP and LinkedIn. Seek at least three different perspectives on each case study until you receive mostly positive feedback. I gathered all kinds of advice and perspectives from my mentors, especially those on hiring teams. They can help you highlight what recruiters are looking for. Remember, you don't have to implement every change suggested. Trust your instincts; you know your project and the story you want to tell better than anyone else.

Embrace Imperfection and Challenges

Don't shy away from discussing what went wrong during a project and how you tackled those challenges. Highlighting your ability to overcome obstacles and navigate through ambiguity can be a strong selling point.

Iteration is your friend

Creating a UX portfolio is a continuous process. It's okay to keep updating it as you grow and learn. I'll forever be tweaking mine! Don't let the fear of perfectionism paralyse you. Embrace the idea that your portfolio is a work in progress, just like your career.

Remember that your UX portfolio is reflective of your journey, growth, and unique perspective as a designer. Take your time, seek feedback, and let your passion for UX shine through your work and the care you take in curating it in your portfolio. Crafting a successful portfolio is a process, each step you take towards that goal means you’re on your way to success. I can’t wait to see those banging portfolios out in the wild!