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How to write a UX Case Study that has an NDA?

UX designers all over the world have had a lot of experience dealing with NDA signed documents and working their way around them to include great case study content to their portfolios. If you were thinking you’re the only one facing this issue, then you’re not my friend. A lot of designers have this question of how to write a UX Case Study that is restricted by an NDA.

What is a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)?

A Non-Disclosure Agreement is a contract signed between 2 or more parties to ensure a company’s trade secret, sensitive project information and future plans stays safe from the eyes of competitors and the general public.

How does NDA play a part in Design Projects?

Essentially a Non Disclosure Agreement is a legal written document signed between you (The designer) and your client (The company) which prevents you from spilling their secret formulas of success, project ideas and plans to the public. Conversely, you could also make them sign an NDA which prevents them from sharing your way of working and your extra secrets to anyone else.

There are different types of NDA’s available :

Unilateral – Is proposed by the client to you, preventing you from sharing their secret information.
Bilateral – is when you and your client sign documents preventing both of you from spilling each other’s confidential information to the public.

Now if you are wondering how to utilize the amazing work you did for a company without breaching the NDA, then keep on reading because we found a list of things you could try. 

If you are someone who has not yet dealt with the dilemma of NDA’s you can still read on to find out how to work around them when the time comes and what are the things to look out for while signing one.

Why is it important to respect an NDA?

They are Legal Documents

First of all NDA’s are legally binding contracts between the parties involved. If broken, you are liable  to pay compensatory charges and other measures that the company can take against you.

It is a matter of your Integrity

Before even considering any other option, if you disrespect an NDA and publish content anyway, it reflects poorly on you and no one else.

A recruiting manager will not be happy to see you showcasing sensitive content, you might even get rejected for being untrustworthy. Because if you were ready to reveal the secrets of your previous client, there’s 90% chance that you might reveal the secrets of the new company as well!

So keep your values in mind.

You might cause a loss for the company

Based on the size and importance of the company you worked for, the information you reveal could prove detrimental in their future plans and success. Imagine how you would feel if others stole your unique idea and made it better?

Now that you understand the importance of an NDA and why breaking it is just not an option, let’s get into the different ways you can create a case study in this situation. 

Doing some base work

1.1 Read your NDA well and list down areas that you are allowed to talk about

NDA’s always clearly lay out the topics that are bound under the contract. So have a clear read and check to see if the information you wish to show falls under the topics covered or not.

Then you can go ahead and draft all the things you can and cannot talk about.

1.2 Contact your Client and have an honest chat

Once you have made yourself well versed with the do’s and dont’s of the NDA, contact your client to ask for permission. Now all the base work you did will help you haggle with them and create a strong case for yourself.

Present them with the list you made, and appeal to them about how much this would elevate your portfolio value.

1.3 Most basic rule – be smart while signing an NDA

When you enter into a contract with a client, or even much before when you are talking about collaborating, be clear about your intentions of publishing a case study or showcasing your work. Communicating to them that you need live projects in your portfolio and highlighting this experience would be of great value to you is crucial. Sort out the differences and come to a consensus right there.

Here are some of the options which you could try which your client might agree to:

2.1 Generalise the work

This is the best option. You can craft a case study from a high-level perspective, leaving out all the NDA clad topics and metrics, focussing only on the main details that elevate you as a UX designer. Remember that a portfolio case study should not be too detailed anyway, so keep it simple with your role, functions, problems and solutions.

2.2 Keep them in the loop

Write your full case study, but leave out sensitive information like exact growth metrics, secret techniques or tools used with your contributions shining through and send it to them for approval. Show that this is important to you and you are willing to go to great trouble to honour their NDA. They might just appreciate you for this and give you minor corrections to your case study.

2.3 Try asking for closed room reveals

 Sometimes they might agree to just let you showcase your work in closed rooms, like an interview or a password protected website. Discuss this option with them and see if it works.

You can then take your work to the interview and discuss your role and thought process without revealing too much client information.

If none of the above options work and the client has firm ‘NO’, then:

3.1 Publish a work experience case study

If you get a ‘no’, you could share the experience you had working for a client, going over team dynamics, timelines, funny incidents and a very high-level view of what you worked on to let recruiters know you worked for so and so the company and played a pivotal role

3.2 Work on conceptual side projects

The amount of companies and applications that desperately need some sort of UX help are endless. Pick any application that you use that you feel could be better. Use the same design process which you typically use to improve the design of that application and publish that as a case study. It’s important that you mention that it’s a concept project and you’re not associated with the company in any manner.

Some of the top UX Case Studies which have been well appreciated all over are conceptual ones. Here’s our list of Top UX Case Studies by Indian Designers out of which most of them are awesome conceptual case studies.

Bonus Tip:

Try sending this case study to the company whose app you just improved. Most of the time they would be happy that they got some free design perspectives. You might even get recruited to that company. Their thought process would that if you could make such an impact even from outside, think of what you could when you’re actually a part of that company!

3.3 Ask for a testimonial

 Hey, you can have some sort of a win right?. If you cannot find common ground and come to a consensus about creating a case study with the project work then ask them to provide validation through testimonials.

These look great on your portfolio and add almost the same kind of value a live project adds. This way, you can mention that you worked for this company and provide a summary and validate that through the testimonial.

3.4 Demonstrate similar skills & process in a different project

If you know what you did differently in this project which is the reason you want to add this case study in your portfolio, then recreate the project for a different scenario.

You can even add that you did a similar project for a real client which is protected by an NDA.


Although NDA’s are considered to be a hindrance in the eyes of designers, it is important to understand that they are vital in cementing a trustworthy relationship between you and your client. We as designers are well aware of protecting our intellectual property, so it is only right that we respect our client’s wishes too.

Moreover, it is not an industry secret that people enter NDA’s. So, your recruiters, hiring managers and any other professional will understand that your need to cut short information. They might even appreciate you for it.

Author avatar
Anjana Ramesh

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