Experienced IDer....portfolio?

Hey all, just a few questions here to the exp. folks.
4 years in the biz now, how many “real” products should I have in my portfolio by now? I know this will vary with each person, but just a ballpark will do. Much of the stuff I work on now wont be out for a lllllllooong time, so how do I handle that if I want to start looking for other jobs and how I handle that in my port? I have all the material at home, it just not released to the public yet so I cant show it at an interview. And much of the other stuff I worked on at the other companies is not out yet either or it changed a bit since I had my hands on the design?
Just curious what the consensus is on that.
Thanks :smiley:

I’m in the exact same situation as you. I’ve been told that you just have to keep up with your own independant projects to put in your portfolio, same way you did in school. Kinda sucks though because you may actually be keeping very busy, professionally. But then you don’t have time to do your own projects just for the portfolio. I don’t include include projects that have changed considerably after my input or that I wasn’t one of the major players or filters on, wouldn’t want to confuse anybody or look like I’m trying to ride on somebody elses work. Guess ya gotta get back to school mentality, doing your own projects after hours.

I guess you could draw from those projects items that you could use on your own projects. Take the work you’ve done a step further or in your own direction and make it yours.

Generally, I have found that “creative” employers are extremely understanding of our issues. (i.e. can’t show current work, non-disclosures) 'Big business" on the other-hand might not be a accepting of your excuses. I guess what I am saying is that it depends what you are looking for in your career.
I am working for corporate america and we just brought in someone with 5+ years experience. When we were looking at their work, it was all very dated. But he talked the talk and seemed like a good fit. Quite honestly, if you have been professionally designing for four years at in an environment where you are not the sole creative, you have the basic skill set essential to produce designs. Conveying your creativity verbally might potentially be more prolific than if you were to bring in samples. At this point in your career what you can provide on projects from start to finish is extremely important. Being able to articulate you particular process is essential. (biggest sell point- can you bring a particular product to market faster for us/our client)

Ok. I’m done rambling on. Hope this helps…

remember this situation at 2-3 years. consulting IDers should have alot to show at 4 years. compared to corporate. but usually its junior design. part of team. not yours. so both cases you need to spend time doing your own stuff. kinda sucks. worse yet you’ll be doing new portfolios for years to come. until your management.

might revisit old school work. maybe pull sketches never developed. or idea never explored (i’m still going to do 3D of my “skateboard” car chassis concept from long ago). use new tools available at office. use this to learn something. me and corporate buddy dedicated Saturdays for almost a year to learning Alias on our own (office didnt use it but had it). was tough sometimes. good to team up. and have good music and coffee! unfortunately you probably have to do it so make it fun.

My thinking on this is a bit divergent from what I’m reading on the other responses, but I’ve looked at hundreds of semi-experienced portfolios, and think I’m a fair representative of your potential ‘customer’.

First, please don’t spend a lot of time doing ‘side’ projects to bolster your portfolio, UNLESS it’s a bonafide business venture. The time you spent in school doing projects that were loosely constrained, or the result of invented constraints, is enough. That activity should have generated plenty of material for a prospective employer to look at and gauge how good your studio skills are.

If you need to spend more time on polishing or revising your portfolio projects because they’re not up to snuff, or because you’re skills continue to evolve, that’s a different issue. Bottom line for me is that when I see ‘experienced’ designers showing me ‘sideline’ projects I tend to cringe and roll my eyes…I’ve seen so many cool chairs, blenders, motorcycles, (whatever) that eventually they all turn into white noise. Exception: (refer to above paragraph) a cool chair/blender/motorcycle design that was something you prototyped, marketed, produced and tried to make money at. THAT’S a much more interesting story.

If you’re doing side projects because you just can’t help yourself, and don’t have anything else to do, that’s a different story as well.

Second, don’t worry so much about keeping score with the number of projects that have gone to production. For the most part, that’s something that you (as a designer) have little control over. If I was sitting across the table from you in an interview, my expectation of someone with your experience would be:

  • your studio skills are up to snuff
  • your understanding of the ‘business of design’, whether corporate or consulting, is a bit more developed than a new grad
  • you have some clue to why the projects you’ve worked on did or did not go to production

Third, the big difference between you (with a little experience) and a new grad is that you’ve actually spent time, I hope, interacting with other designers and non-designers in a professional environment. Unless you’ve spent ALL your time working on sketches, you should have lots to talk about.

Talk about the teams you worked on, the different constraints you encountered, the way you worked as part of a team, things you could have done differently, the difference between engineers and designers and marketers and sales people and clients, the things you’ve learned in your first few years out of school. Understand these things, and you’ll have an appropriate response to the “why don’t you have anything in production?” question.

Fourth, don’t interpret a non-disclosure agreement as a death pact. If you’ve got some nice images of a project that’s not on the market yet, don’t feel bad about showing it discreetly. DO NOT show the latest prototype sketches from Ford to Honda, but showing it to a non-competitor in a different market is mostly accepted…just apologize to the person you’re showing it to beforehand (“I don’t like to show proprietary work, but I think this project is a good illustration of what I can do, and think the risk of exposing it to you is negligible”).

Bottom line? Don’t try to bolster a portfolio that doesn’t have a lot of ‘in production’ stuff with yet more stuff that’s not in production. Do us all (and yourself) a favor and spend some time comprehending and describing what you’ve learned about design (and the larger world) in these first years after school.

If you’ve been paying attention to the past 3 years, it should make a good story. If you’re creative, it might even be entertaining.

“I don’t like to show proprietary work, but I think this project is a good illustration of what I can do, and think the risk of exposing it to you is negligible”

slippery slope. i wouldnt hire person saying that. maybe after 6 months it doesnt work out. will that person start showing our confidential work around? if only thing to showcase is experience with teams talk and old school work then questionable judgement raises red flags to me.

Clarifying a few of my points in response to ykh’s concern.

  • What I look for in a designer with a couple of year’s experience might be different from somebody else’s. I described it in the previous post in detail, but would broadly describe it as ‘more breadth of experience’ in addition to good studio skills. That’s very different from counting how many ‘real’ products are in portfolio.

  • If “consulting IDers should have alot to show at 4 years”, I still contend that they have little control over whether or not that work actually sees the light of day. Because of this, I PERSONALLY don’t have an issue with a more junior designer judiciously showing portfolio pieces that aren’t in the public domain yet…otherwise they may have NO professional work to present. Senior design candidates are different.

“I still contend that they have little control over whether or not that work actually sees the light of day”

of course. but at design firms projects come and go fast. not like corporate. assume only 1 project per month (even tho my experience was 2/month). thats 12 per year. if only 2 get manufactured and take 1 year to manufacture then at 4 years you have 6 products on market and 2 in the pipe. many portfolios are only 8-12 pieces. its okay at 4 years to pull best of student work and show it to fill in. better to do only one extra project a year. a good personal project. with research, concept sketches, foam mockups, renderings, etc. then you have new portfolio at 4 years. perfect for design firm interviews. shows real work. personal initiative. desire to design even on your own time.

if you are corporate then probably have less new stuff. but can talk about business things consultants dont learn much about. lots of stuff to learn from business team members. thats valuable. in four years maybe you have 3 products. still do one a year. thats 7 new projects. can use college thesis to get 8. for corporate ID that seemed a common number of pieces when i saw candidates.

you dont have to start showing confidential material. dont make excuses. that might be a bad move. design community is small. imagine showing a piece and turns out someone has connection back to your job. a bad rep is something no designer wants.

anyways. thats my two cents.

thank you all for the opinions, i appreciate it.
will keep both sides of the argument in mind when looking for a new job.