Posting Work Done with Previous Employer

Is it OK to use dev documentation from a previous employer’s on-the-shelf product to help promote yourself?

  • yes
  • no
  • depends on the situation

0 voters

I have a question of tact. I’ll tell you straight off that my desire is to show the work on my personal portfolio website, but thought I’d ask first.
Here’s the details:

Until 3 months ago, I worked in a small consulting firm.
Now I freelance and would like to add some of my previous work to my portfolio. Specifically, I’d like to show a product that I helped redesign for my previous employer that has hit the shelf.

Is it appropriate for me to show my development sketches and prototype pictures as long as I mention that I was working for said employer while the item was being developed?

This is not a patented product. You can buy it at your local Target. I did have a non-compete clause in my employment contract. Does that matter?

I would love to get as many opinions as possible. Thanks.

Lots of non-disclosure contracts will say you can’t reveal anything until the product is on the market, after that you can show but then only with their permission. And that’s the type of contract between the firm and a client. Between an individual designer and the firm, things may be different, it all depends on what you signed when you started. Best bet is to ask the firm.

I go through the same thing being a freelancer, lots of times you have to stay anonymous. I have some contracts that I can’t even mention that I worked for the design firm let alone be allowed to use anything in my portf.
I don’t even bother with it anymore, if I encounter any hesitiation or resistance, I won’t pursue it unless I was absolutely THE main guiding force behind the product. Other than that I just do my own work specifically for the portfolio to show skills and thinking ability so that I won’t have any disclosure issues. Put that in combination with a resume that has the names of places you’ve worked, most future employers will know you have to have some capabilities and a track record. Then the portfolio shows some specific bankable things that you can do for them that they won’t have to question.

For example, if you worked for “top firm #2” for 3 years but due to contract reasons can’t show any work, but they have an extensive client list and portfolio on their website, I would think a future employer will put 2 and 2 together if the portfolio of your own concept work is also nice. Especially if you have a distinctive rendering or presentation style that’s all over the firms website and also in your portfolio of your own work. People shouldn’t have a problem “trusting” your abilities even though you can’t put the pro stuff in your portfolio all of the time. Every interview I’ve been on has said that they completely understood, it’s not very uncommon so they judged me based on what I chose to show them instead of the fact that they’re all concepts and not projects from the places I’ve worked.

This is what’s worked for me, others may have differing opinions. I wish I could show some of the outstanding projects I’ve worked on but there’s too much hassle for me freelancing. Then I have to rely on others press shots or boards that the intern misspelled something on, etc…the materials I get may not flow well with my portfolio so there ends up being too many things outside of my control so I just say screw it, show stuff that’s at least 95% me so the potential client/employer won’t have any doubts as to what I can do for them. They may doubt my exact contribution / abilities as a designer showing up with something that had a lot of hands in it unless I’m applying as a team lead/manager and I was in charge of that project.

Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask the people involved. That’s the best most professional and honest thing you can do. Better to do that than to take a risk and just guess and assume and end up getting in trouble and jeapordizing your reputation.

online just show the final product

in interview show the sketches and development…

the really tricky part is when you have done alot of concept work for bigger clients that never hits market…some of that can’t even be shown in an interview without some kind of nda…

I agree with Skinny and scb. On line or in a leave behind only the released product can be shown… within the interview confidentiality must be protected unless you receive permission to disclose.

I’d also be careful which development pieces are shown. If the project was wide open and lots of product brainstorming (i.e. not just a skin job) then show the most direct path. Never know if some side concept sketch is being developed now that you’re gone.

absolutely agree with that last statement. I have had to shot quick emails to interns that posted sketches for unexplored projects from years ago that were being developed. So work the story back from the product editing out the sketches and ideas that were not direct contributors to the final product.

I’m kind of at a crossroads with this issue right now. Truth be told, a great deal of the actual “design work” I’ve done has been done in preparation for exporting the manufacturing overseas. As a result of that, I don’t feel like I’ve really retained any “authorship” of the work I’ve done. Much of it has been drafting, specs for materials, manufacturing process, etc. I DO feel however that thanks to the communication “barrier” with working with companies overseas, much of the work I have done to prepare specs has a sort of “narrative” and design process orientated that shows evident thought process.

Thus far, I’ve been dodging the issue to a degree by rationalizing that it’s okay to show someone an instruction sheet that gives you a good impression of how the product is designed and functions, because if I was a consumer I could buy it off the shelf and have access to the same knowledge.

Where I start to wonder about the issue ethically, is can I show someone parts of the actual process and consider an NDA and communicating the confidentiality of what I’m showing to be “enough”? Is that reasonable if I’m not showing these things to a competitor or the same industry?