Physical and digital portfolio presentations

This is taken from the portfolio bag thread but I thought that this was interesting enough that it merits its own thread.

Yo, could you elaborate on what you expect in terms of physical models?
I can only see school work or products on market realistically qualify as physical components. Obviously anybody who has worked in a serious ID team, will have made models, both by hand and 3D printed.
But these are of course never to leave the studio/client. What would you show without breaching your NDA contracts?

For my portfolio, I have documented the model process and will be able to show these after checking with my previous employer and once the products reach market but of course, I haven’t taken them. That would land me in hot water, not just with the studio/client who owns the models but also with the interviewer, who would legitimately be asking if I will do the same to his process models.

Good question Bengt,

If a product has gone to production, and it is within your physical means to bring a production example, I definitely recommend it. A car would be difficult, but in your case having worked on some Beats product, you should bring a production sample.

While in a consulting environment pre-production samples, 3d prints and prototypes are often gold and kept under proverbial lock and key, in a corporate environment we often have pre-pros, incorrect EV samples, and 3 prints coming out our ears. Some of these go into display cases, but often a lot of early 3d prints simply outdate immediately and are trash. We often make very high quality models, indecernable from a production piece to a degree, that we show in private at trade shows and at retail and media previews. Often these outdate and we usually keep the best for display, but last year we brought 30+ products to production, that is a lot of associated material. While not an official policy, I often leave the excess prints and models in the care of their individual lead designer and if they took them home post production release for their own uses I would be OK with that. Likely they would be discarded here anyway. Similarly from my days at Nike I have many pre production prototypes that would have only gone to the shredder and RP prints of outsole/midsole units, injection components and other tooled parts that would have just been trashed had I not saved them.

I think it this point it is pretty well documented that I am a total nerd. Bellow are some shots of a wall in my home office. For me, I truly love having these bits of my personal history that would have otherwise just been trash to someone else. Little pieces of ephemera like that can be of little value to a company (make sure before you assume though!), as the production piece is typically the solitary goal, but in a portfolio presentation they are worth their weight in gold as props, and perhaps nice to have emotionally to you as a designer (you might not be weird like me, I don’t know). As long as your employer is OK with it or this is the defacto policy at your company, I would be fine with someone bringing something like that in to an interview. As you noted though, I likely would ask if it was OK for them to be showing it so I could gauge the response.

This is a great topic as it has been something I often think about when planning for interviews is to give my audience something to interact with, whether that be a small object where they can see how much time I spent adding details to a hidden part, or how I spent time making sure a mechanism worked.

I also use some of my prototypes for other uses, during my last internship I was given lead on a concept project that really helped me grow and I’m so proud of the form. It is a houseware product and one of the components is a bowl of sorts that for a photoshoot we CNC’ed it and then vac formed. It needed to be clear but we pulled a white PP version to test. As I haven’t had anything put it to production yet I kept the white version and use it as a fruit bowl because I think I did a great job on the form.

Obviously that part wouldn’t be interesting to a potential employer but given the advances in technology it’s easier than ever to have some of our projects realised without the holy grail of a production piece.

On that note how do both of you and others feel about having your own 3D prints made of projects you work on professionally using services such a Shapeways? Even though the CAD still falls under ownership of the firm/client would it be frowned upon in an interview to bring those in to showcase what we are talking about? This can get expensive depending on the size of the product but if it was the only way to bring in objects…

This would not reflect well on you. The potential employer would think that if hired, you would be making your own prints on the side of their work and showing it outside. Quite rare would be the employer that would be comfortable with you doing this.

Well, from my experience it is all confidential. Even if it were to end up in a garbage bin, that doesn’t mean I would be allowed to show it to competitors.
I’d imagine its about context. Lot’s of models, without proper framing and context, are completely useless. hence finding a part in a bin most of the time, won’t matter. But bringing that same part into a presentation with proper setup, all of a sudden, we are looking at a serious breach of contract.

What I am getting at is that I think it is often unfair of interviewers to expect a smörgåsbord of process models, cosmetics or samples in an interview setting. Yes, I love to look at that stuff too and to a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes of a competing design team is always thrilling but I think it is dangerous to make inexperienced designers think they need to.

Bringing in a product that is on the market, great but I would never ever show anything physical from my time with Beats as it would be straight up theft. If I were to interview a designer and he/she would show me a print from a product that is not on the market, I would assume the worst and check with that previous employer.

As I said earlier, a production product. Reads like you are getting pretty worked up over there. You have to excercise good judgment and understand the IP. If you are showing a proprietary connector or component pre production, that would be horrible. If you are showing an early aesthetic model, not so much. You are going to have to show process. Just showing some glossy finals is not going to cut it. This is no different than showing an early sketch. In the case of a very brand and aesthetic sensitive product like the example we are using I think showing a consumer positioning slide would be more revealing of IP (and more dangerous) than the shape model.

Regarding Sketchgrads question of making your own prints, that gets very sticky. The only way you are going to show it is if it is a production product in which case you should bring the production product and maybe an artifact from the proccess. If it is not an actual artifact from the process but a post process print, I think it’s value decreases. The most clear reason I could see for doing this is if the product is very large, say a boat, and you realy wanted to show a detail physically, that might make sense.

I’ve interviewing as a designer, and interviewing designers, for a long time. You have to be smart about it. One rule of thumb when weighing a decision is to ask yourself if your former employer was going to overhear everything you said and see everything you borough from the next room over would you still say/show it? It is like the old email etiquette rule, never right an email you don’t want forwarded.

There is a difference between showing your own ability as a designer to evolve a design, and showing a company’s process of evolving a given design. That decision is up to the company not the designer.

Na, not worked up. It is just an important topic and getting into legal trouble is a serious.
I think good judgement is definitely key and good to hear that you grant designers some wiggle room in their projects under your leadership.
Not everybody does this however and I would encourage anyone taking models to get this cleared by the highest instances in the company, preferably in writing.

True, and with that you might say the final product is more indicative of the company’s decision making (production input, creative direction, brand positioning, design language system compliance) while an earlier insight into the process might be a better look into the abilities of the individual designer.

Just making sure. Hard to tell from writing sometimes.

The above is accurate. I’ll give another example of my own. When I was self publishing my book on sketching I went back to old clients and of course the SVP of design where I worked to get permission. I showed a mock up of the book and explained why I wanted to do it. All bit one gave me permission. Not including them didn’t hurt the book. Ironically that particular client was fine with me putting the sketches in my online portfolio but not the book. At Nike, the SVP approved but also had me consult with the legal department. Legal wanted to know why I wanted to do this and would I be violating IP, weren’t these sketches the property of the company, and I would in effect be selling them. I explained that while he was correct, what the company wanted was the necessary protection to manufacture and sell products. That I had no interest in bootlegging product but instead my intent was to share and inspire other designers still in school or maybe not even in school yet and that it would be great for the company. He agreed and gave the permission.

It never hurts to ask, especially when you can really explain your intent. Stay in this game long enough and you know everyone moves on in time. If one of my guys wanted to show work in an interview I would be understanding, especially if they came to me first, because then I would have a chance to try and keep them! But if I couldn’t, if they wanted to move closer to family, or for some other reason, then I would help them… Especially because then I could help them not go to a competitor! :slight_smile:

Off topic: Going to a competitor is something I’ve never fully understood. You already do that. I’ve typically left to shift my career path in a different way. When you do that employers are understanding. Going to a competitor just tees people off, understandably.

My specific case was requesting/requiring at the start of a project for a helmet design that I be able to use the “sketch to production process” after a given time period had passed from commercial release of the product. I structured a discount into the work because I was going to be able to use the documentation for promotion. Seemed like a win win.

I built in a very cohesive documentation and each step was coordinated to show the evolution, much more than in a conventional workflow. It was purpose built “dream documentation”. It looked great.

At the end of the process, higher ups freaked out and sent all kinds of demands for handover of all sketches, not just deliverables, additional contractual requests, letters from lawyers and requested signing documents that would allow them to claim unlimited damages in case of my release of any of the documentation.

I refused to sign, but also have yet to release any of the documentation. They were unable to answer the question, “what is it that I could disclose that is of concern?”

What they would allow after discussions, was one or two images of their very successful helmet on my website. I also have declined to post those.

Corporations do not like to share, and have strong competitors which are always on the minds of the managers and the legal departments.

It is not off topic to bring up competitors, that is the reason for this whole discussion, as it is the competitors that everyone worries about. No one cares about me showing a helmet design to a yacht company, they care about their two biggest sports competitors.

Understood. As a consultant it is definitely more difficult because once you complete a project the company fears you will go to their competitor with an unfair insight into their process. The one company that said no to including sketches in the book was a large snowboard equipment and apparel brand. The project in question was for snowboard bindings. The bindings had all been in production several years and that market moves rather fast, but still the sensitivity was real. Maybe the hassle of having to get it approved was too much. I get that. Understandable.

I’ve been on the client side of that issue as well and tried to assure colleagues that the IP risk was minimal and the amount of lawyers and possible bad PR was also a cost/risk. When using outside consultants we have a pretty standard non-compete that outlines no work can be done in a similar product category and with “x,y,z” competitors for “n” amount of time. That way they can show it to other industries and continue to get work and be gainfully employed, just not go to our direct competitors.

In the case of working with frog, I gave them permission to display the work they did on their site with a time limit on doing other work in the category. ( Design and Innovation Case Studies | frog, part of Capgemini Invent ) Difficult to enforce with such a big firm, but it helps at least isolate the team that did the work… the flip side is that one of the key team members also was the lead designers on the original Beats studio (it all comes back around) while he was at Ammunition. Frog recruited him out, then he ended up designing headphones for us. In the end, it is just a small design world and people like to hire you based on past successes. Human nature, and you have to let people have jobs.

Geting more directly on topic, here is another personal example. I had designed a razor and cartage for a large global manufacturer. The cartridge, which is super technical, came out very close to the original design, but the handle didn’t, at least not to my satisfaction. And the women’s version never really came out. Years later, to put it into my portfolio to the level I wanted I designed a new handle. A model shop saw the drawings in my portfolio and actually offered to make a full working model for their own portfolio (most of their clients also didn’t want their work in this particular model shop’s portfolio, which was run by an ex apple model maker). I agreed under the terms of I would get a duplicate of the model and it used the production cartage I designed, a win win. I got a few nice artifacts to show (size and shape studies and a final model), they got a nice piece that showed off their capabilities, and it wasn’t client work.

Thanks for clarifying, that goes for you too Yo. I’m not saying its something I would have done but just a thought given how readily available home printing is it could be an option.

None of my work is in production (I know that doesn’t make me a real designer :wink:) so I was thinking this might be a viable way for my interviewer to hold something and inspect it physically rather than in a book/on a screen.

Anyway, I love your physical portfolio Yo. Your sketches are great but seeing this collection of artefacts from your career is inspiring.

Sketches and renders are just tools to get you to the next step. If it never gets made what good really is it? :slight_smile:

Alternatively, there is nothing stopping you from doing a concept project, even a very simple one like the razor above, and having a printed part made. The more you get into the profession, the more you understand what it takes to make production level work. Even a simple object can show your abilities in a particular area. I try to look at my portfolio as a whole. No one project is perfect, or shows the complete breadth and depth of my experience, but when taken together you get an idea of what I’m about I think.

I think approaching it like that can be helpful.

Design is about intending the result. Production has no impact on whether or not you are a designer. It just impacts how you might learn about your design in a mass context. :smiley: What we designers deal in is the future, we all have to have the imagination to synthesize and project forward. If your work at any stage of the process is reviewed by someone familiar with the design process they know how the pieces fit together. If you are doing a presentation/show for someone unfamiliar with the process, then the full range of props are certainly an effective sales tool.

However, if your job is sketching and illustrative rendering it and someone else’s job is modeling and building it, then the sketches and renders are what you should be showing in your portfolio and interviews.

Given the current state of rapid prototyping, prototypes should be included if available and permission is obtained. In my view however, if you did not build the prototypes, or the CAD models that built the prototypes, then they should be shown with the clear asterisk that they are not your work, but derived from your work. If someone showed me a 3D print in an interview my first question would be if they did the CAD for it. Same goes for a handmade prototype, did you make it? If they did not, then it would be more of a distracting prop than anything else and possibly a negative.

If you are going to show the depth of your ability to create, or to manage a creation process, you should have projects going on that you can show completely, your own projects. Shapeways and other RP firms have opened up huge possibilities in this area. Of course working with department support, collective review and evolution of design, modeling guys that will take your 2D drawing and turn it into 3D works, engineering guys that will tailor a design for molding and materials will almost always result in a better example and be more tempting to show.

I’m very happy to have insights from people who has been through this before. I just started preparing a new portfolio and your experiences are very helpful, so thanks to all of you. I would never take something and show it around without first asking the manager or the responsible for that. However, I didn’t think that having it on paper would be necessary, but now that you guys mentioned it, I’d rather have it that way.

I’d like to take some foam models I made for a project where I’m currently employed, I’m pretty they are going to throw them away in a few months, but it’d be great to have some physical models to show in interviews. I basically did everything except for the internal components, from the research and sketches to preparing the 3D for manufacturing, so I think it’d be something worth showing. I think Yo is right when he says maybe the process is more important that a foam mock up or a 3D print, so I guess is also something I’ll have to discuss with my boss.

@Bepster: Did you ask if you could take any physical models? Did you have any problems with that?

Just ask your boss casually “hey, what happens to the foam models when they are out of date and the product is released? If we are going to throw them away can I have them as a moment of the project?”

Totally disagree. If they manages the CAD person or model maker it is totally relevant to their ability to direct, guide, and work with a team. All depends at how good you are with talking to your contribution. Be honest, be truthful, and be positive.

I’ll probably do that when I ask him about what things I can use for the portfolio.

Yup have done this multiple times. Still have my first pullover, first injection molded part, first watch handmade sample, A few consumer projects I wasn’t able to keep, since I’m guessing the client technically owned the proto’s. But you don’t have to say its for a portfolio. Most of those things make nice shelf material and a good visual representation of your design timeline.