Portfolio Ethics?

I’m sure several of us have struggled with this before…

I work at a company that often kills projects. For example 10% of the projects make it through. So what happens to the projects that got killed? What do you as the designer do with them? Is it okay to show them through email or in person at interviews? I obviously would not show them online. I’ve gotten several answers to this question including:

Don’t show it.
If it is not a direct competitor its okay.
Just show the project at the in person interview, don’t leave them a digital copy.

Also, what about projects that are coming out in a few months?


I often wondered the same question and have yet to reach a conclusion. Would love to hear back from experienced designers and hiring managers.

Unless you have consent from your previous/current employer I don’t think it’s worth the risk in any scenario. Reputation is really important in any industry, especially in one as small as industrial design.

I was told a cautionary tale once of a designer who interviewed at a non-competitor with confidential work from his previous employers. He didn’t know that the person interviewing him was a former class mate of his previous boss. Long story short, word got back to his previous employer that he was disclosing confidential work, he didn’t get that job and was effectively blacklisted from interviewing at any place his former boss had associations with.

I would focus on working on personal projects that reflect your current skillset/thinking abilities if you’re worried about professional work never seeing the light of day.

Very simple - if it is confidential then never show it - end of story

What could be confidential

  1. a product that has not been released to market
  2. a design and development process
  3. a concept that wasn’t chosen to over another product that went to market
  4. a concept or project that never made it to market
  5. a concept that is patentable and cannot be disclosed to the public (or the clock start ticking)
  6. taking CAD data
  7. the list keeps going

Have a open conversation with your employer explain the need and desire to personally document your design and development work and get a understanding of what you can and cannot do. i could go on and on about the ramifications but i think the example in the other post says it all.

In most places the concepts you develop while on their dime still belong to them. So even if it doesn’t make it to market or gets shelved, it’s still part of their idea database that belongs to them, and there may be things there that they decide to revisit a year later so if you show it, you just screwed up any potential patent apps, etc… If you do it on their time, it’s theirs, regardless of if they use it or not. Best bet is to just use your improved skillset to do your own made up projects on the side for your portfolio. And that can be better since you won’t be limited by things such as a boss changing things on you, or a tight deadline like you would for what you did professionally. Just come up with your own stuff unless it’s something completely done and on the market.