Past Projects (in Consultancy) shown in New Personal Company

Hi all,

Just want to hear your opinion on the following subject.

I had been working in a Design Consultancy but now I am setting up my own personal design studio. I was wondering if it is ethical or even legal to present projects I was working on (I was responsible for them as well as I designed them) on my new company’s website.
In the text body, I am will not imply that “my office” designed this project, but will be used passive voice like “blah blah product created for a company… blah blah”. I will not be mentioning client names as well.
Finally, in the bottom of the text body I will be mentioning something like “project created in collaboration with XXXXXXX Design”.

On my research I have seen other individuals who have also left bigger companies/consultancies, some to post previous position projects, others not.

The reason I want to present these projects, is the fact that without showing them I have almost no work to demonstrate, other than some concepts.

Thanks for your input/feedback.

Firstly congrats on opening your own practice.

Why would you not use client names? I would imagine that the work has to be launched products and I would definitely advice against showing any concept work without the written consent by client and consultancy.

I am no legal expert but I would imagine that showing work you have done elsewhere should be ok as long as it is in the public domaine and clearly labeled where it was done.
The design office Level in SF is a good example. The founders where lead designers and directors at places like HTC and NewDeal and they show plenty of that work on the studio website. It doesn’t strike me as disingenuous.

What probably would be good is to check with your previous employers if this is ok.
I could imagine that maybe using promotional brandassests from the previous clients/employers on your new company website might be an issue and maybe you have to produce new imagery. Especially if your previous employers feel like you are competition.

In general, I would position it as the more professional exposure for the clients, the better and if you have a good presentation of yourself, it will positively reflect on anyone.

Bepster, thanks for the information you provide.
All the projects I am planning to show are already in production or have been promoted (design awards etc.).
Furthermore, I intend to show projects that I was personally involved and material that I created. Besides, all the material has been recreated, so no images, texts will be the same.
My studio is located in a different country than my last consultancy but, hey, we are living and working in a global economy :slight_smile: , but yes, I do not think I am direct competition to them (although both based in Europe).
I will contact them, but first I wanted to hear the community’s opinion or “common business practices”. In terms of law, as far as I know, the creator, even after selling her/his designs, always possess the project’s intellectual property. This is a piece of information I received from different lawyers.

This might be true but in this case the “creator” wouldn’t be you but rather the consultancy you worked for.
So if there are photos, renders or any other promotional assets, my guess would be that they could probably tell you to not show it on your website.
This is why it would be important to get their ok or put it up and be ready to take it down if you are being told to do so.

A couple of years ago I freelanced at a very small consultancy where one of the founders had been a design manager at some very large global consumer electronics brands (0ne of bepsters colleagues used to work with him actually :wink: ). On their website, he showcased some of these projects but in the description said "worked on whilst design manager at XXX with designers XXX).

It is one of those weird situations that you want to continue doing great work in your own firm that you did in the past whilst working for someone else.

Perhaps Michael could chime in on this since he must have faced something similar even though his new studio is under his name? He does not give the impression he solely designed all of the products.

@ bepster, if I recall correctly, still some rights remain to the individual creator who did the design, despite the fact that she/he was an employee in a design studio. To be on the safe side though, I asked my lawyer and I am waiting for his response.
@sketchgrad, thank you as well for your time to share your experience. Perhaps I should be more descriptive with text like the one you mention. I was planning to write something like “In collaboration with XXXXXX design” but this may give the falls impression that my design studio collaborated with my ex-design studio as equal partners.

That would be really interesting to know. I have never talked about this to a law specialist and was only assuming that when you work for an agency, the work you do does belong to them which in turn they can sell to their clients.

Both my last agencies and at my current employer, designers that have been involved with a project are being named on the patents.
In that case ownership might be a bit different but I am not sure what this changes as the patent is still issued to your employer.

Good morning, as soon as I have a response, I will post it here for the community’s reference (just reference of course).
What you mention about having the designer’s name on the patent, in a sense doesn’t it imply the recognition of the creator-designer’s intellectual property ? Just a thought. I will pass this piece of information to my lawyer. However this may be individual design agency’s & client’s policy.
As far as I remember, for the product’s I designed or overviewed in the agency I was working, only once I was asked to provide to the client full design team member’s and my full name in the event he would file a patent.
Anyways, I will keep you posted.

ps. by the way, I was happy to find out that you run the benbentobox (great content, I have stumbled on it quite some times) and designed the logitech craft keyboard. Wonderful design.

If you were an employee then the work you did for your employer is Work For Hire. They own the work you did for them, and they may have had a contract with their client that made the work the firm did Work For Hire and then it belongs to the client. Katie Lane is an attorny that specializes in these and contract issues – she has a good blog that answers a lot of questions.

Had a quick discussion with my lawyer on the matter we discuss here.

DanLewis is correct, this is what my lawyer told me. However, he added that the relevant law in EU countries (may not be the case in US) also states that the Company/Employer owns the material that is enough for the creation of the product. It is kind of vague. Furthermore, the “moral” rights, remain to the employee. The only explicit part is that in Work for Hire, the employee transfers all the money-related rights to the employer.

ref: (pages 137 bottom - 138 top )

Where are you located, not the US? Helps to know if you want useful comments.

DanLewis, no, I am located in Greece, that is why I am checking EU IP laws. My mistake, I thought it was stated in a previous post.