A Collection of Design Case Studies

Kelly Bailey via Flickr

Photo credit: Kelly Bailey via Flickr

Besides being a designer, I’m also a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts (or MMA).

And in MMA, like in every other combat sports, professional fighters learn a lot from watching one another fight. So as soon as a fighter knows who he’ll be fighting next, his coach will start scouring YouTube to find tape on his opponent.

I believe this concept applies to design, too. Not the “punching each other in the face” part mind you, but the idea that you can learn a lot from real-world examples.

This is the reason why I wrote an eBook to showcase my design process for a real app. Case studies they are by nature more realistic than tutorials, and they often raise the hard questions that normal articles can easily sweep under the rug. Plus, there’s the big advantage that you can usually experience the finished product for yourself.

Case studies are also a big part of how I happened to learn design myself. I remember Jesse Bennet-Chamberlain‘s posts in particular being a big influence when I started out.

And of course, if you’re a designer yourself then publishing case studies is a great way to get your name out there.

So hoping case studies will help you as much as they helped me, here are a couple examples of great design case studies from around the web.


Jesse Bennet-Chamberlain

Campaign Monitor case study

The Campaign Monitor case study by the aforementioned Jesse Bennet-Chamberlain was a great inspiration, because it was a very thorough look at the design process of a great-looking, high-profile site.

The site has since been redesigned again, but it doesn’t make the original case study any less interesting. And as a bonus, you can also check out this case study on Campaign Monitor landing pages.

Be sure to also check out this short but sweet case study about the Steinway & Sons site.


Fi

Ramayana case study

Fi (Fantasy Interactive) is one of the best design agencies out there, and they like to rub it in our faces by publishing gorgeous, detailed case studies.

Some of my favorites include Ramayana and HTC.

Their case studies do tend to focus a little bit too much on dazzling you rather than educating you, but they’re still a great read.


Zurb

Plunk case study

Zurb is a Silicon Valley product design agency famous for tirelessly putting out web apps, as well as being the brains behind the Foundation framework.

They’ve got a few nice case studies about their design process, such as one on the visual design of Plunk, or one about redesigning a landing page.


37Signals

Highrise case study

Just like Zurb, 37Signals often publish case studies about the design of new products of features.

I particularly recommend their 3-part series (1, 2, 3) on A/B testing a new design for the Highrise landing page.

And although it wasn’t written by 37Signals, you can also check out this interesting look at the evolution of the Basecamp homepage.


Folyo

Reelsurfer case study

I’ve been publishing quite a few case studies over at the Folyo blog, showcasing collaborations between companies and Folyo designers.

I already posted about the redesign of the Perch sitedesigning ReelSurfer’s web app, and designing the Awessome site. And more are coming soon!


Me

(Sorry for featuring my content again, but believe it or not detailed case studies are hard to come by!)

You can also find a few case studies on this very blog. Some are about client work (Sharypic for iPhone), and some are about personal projects (The Toolbox).

And speaking of case studies, my post about designing CodeYear.com even went viral and got retweeted a couple hundred times!


Other Case Studies

UK agency Mixd wrote up a very detailed case study focusing on responsive design.

Musho is a great designer who works at Circle in Palo Alto. He recently published a one-pager about the design process for their new app. It’s worth checking out if only for the shots of the rejected version, which looks almost as good as the real thing.


So there you go. I hope these examples will help you become a better designer, and if you know of other case studies be sure to let me know in the comments!

As usual, you can also discuss/upvote on Hacker News.

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