Against Case Studies

Rodrigo Tello

Case Studies, commonly used in the Tech Industry as a way to asses a design candidate during the interview process, are a mediocre and deficient format to present, review, and evaluate accurately a design candidate.

Case Studies are optimized for presentations. Most of the times, work won't happen in a presentation fashion at companies. Maybe at huge corporations, but definitely not in startups. By corporation I mean thousands and thousands of people. However, if a corporation has a presentation culture to review design, probablhy it is a bad. Good presentations suit those that are good at presenting. Design will probably happen via messages on a company chat, or via a video call, or an in person meeting. Most of my best design work, has been shared, reviewed, fixed, tinkered and agreed upon when a couple of my colleagues, engineers and managers are sitting next to me, while I try to narrate my train of thought. These trains of thought are not narrated linearly.

Case Studies optimize for story-telling. Stories are not work. Stories have beginning, middle, and end. Stories have clear actors, clear plot line. Stories have heroes, and villains. Design work is not a story, at least not a single story. Design work has no begining or end, only improvement. And improvisation. And compromises. And stories that un ravel at different timelines, across space.

Case Studies treat the process as a final artifact. This is inherently a conflict.