Proprietary Work in Portfolio

Hey all, I have a questions and I’d like to know what you think I should do. Previous posts have touched on proprietary work but I need some advice.

For almost a year now I’ve been interning and I’ve headed a lot of projects that have yet to come out to the market and even more projects that have died late in the game (sourcing problems, priority changes, my own mistakes with tooling costs).

It’s all VERY different from what I did in school, and my portfolio does not reflect a lot of the basic skills that I’ve been working hard at developing.

I don’t think it would be right to show my recent work, but I’m dying to get my first JOB, and if some kid came to my place of work with a bunch of to-be released work I think I would not approve.

Is it appropriate to give snippets of proprietary work and just talk my way through what I did?
Do I keep waiting another 6 or so months and sit on projects that will definitely help me get a job?

I would appreciate any advice or similar experiences


Showing work that is yet to come the market would be inappropriate, un less you are give permission. I recommend you give yourself a project that shows off you new found skills

I agree. Until something is in the public domain (shown publicly at a trade show or in the market) it is highly unprofessional and could get you sued. You could affect the companies ability to get a patent.

Just don’t do it.


Should you wait the 6 months to show the work? Yes. Or you could contact your employer. If the work has been shown as sales samples to major retailers such as Wal-mart and Target. This would mean that by the time you go to show it, it will be in out in the open. If the project was cancelled of is not be produced…Sorry you cannot show it. This does not me however that you cannot create your own project and put the skills that you learned to use just to show what you can do!!!

Showing work you are not supposed show can not just put you in hot water with the place you were working but also with the place you are interviewing with.
The community is small and all the studios know what the others are doing or at least have a an idea. So they will know if you show something they are no supposed to see.
I recommended a former class mate as a design assistant to a designer I work for. She showed work she was not supposed to show from a previous internship. He noticed as he knows the studio she perviously worked very well and contacted that designer.
Needless to say, this backfired for her on both ends.

Instead, I would encourage you to have to interviewer call or contact the place you worked at. If they give you a good review, that is all you need. Then you can refer to the standard of projects your previous workplace is known for.

A lot of times there seems to be a grey area when showing work in person. Some design work can NEVER be transmitted or posted electronicly, but would be suitable to show in a printed portfolio in person.

Several former clients have given the ok for this kind of situation. You should ask if they would allow that, I’d imagine you’d look even better in their eyes since your taking their business so seriously

Agree with Travisimo, there is a bit of a grey area when it comes to what you bring in person, as long as you leave NOTHING behind. I still tend to wait until production has at least started or the project has been dead for 12 months+ At that point it will be on the market soon enough, or the competition has already eclipsed it.

As far as what you show online or leave behind. NEVER show work that has not at least been released in a press release or is available in stores. Whichever comes first. The last thing you want is for someone to google their product and have your portfolio come up before the press release! Respect that they own the IP, and let them control the messaging of the product. If your coroflot pops up on page 3 of a google search, it is less of an issue.

As far as showing your current skills, just assign yourself a project. You could do 20 new projects with those shiny new skills. Ditch the old stuff.

Hi All:

Any thoughts on the eternal conflict of confidentiality vs. recruiters and employers wanting to see the whole process vs. just the finished product in portfolios, especially the introductory portfolio you first email with a resume. Many of these in process items are technically confidential. R u at a disadvantage if you don’t show these process items? - Thanks!

Great advice, yall. Just posted a similar question, should have looked here first. I guess doing personal projects that show off skills is the way to go, since you own all and can post it anywhere, then just show product pics of stuff that hit the market.

Never - Ever - Ever show confidential or proprietary work!

Its safe to show only what is in the public domain. If you are still at a job and looking to jump - default to common sense. No job is worth compromising or jeopardizing someone’s investment or future-just wrong. This is a very bad practice and dangerous which can result in IP being made public knowledge. A mistake like this can force companies out of business and result in law suits worth millions with you being at the center of the suit.

I knew of one incident which a designer showed confidential work thinking it wouldn’t get out and it came back to bite him in the town and he had to move away after getting labeled. No one trusted him.

Get approval to show the work…if you contributed to it there shouldn’t be any issues.

Best way to introduce them in the portfolio is to do other products or projects (like design competitions) involving your design process.

What about the sketch and drafting work for the embodiment that was made public? Technically ALL related background work done for a company is confidential, but it is shown a lot.

There was another thread about this recently that is worth reading.

Showing process work is probably OK if it doesn’t reveal something important that didn’t make it into the final product (IE ideas which are still valuable to company X)

Consider this:

If your boss found out you showed something to someone else, would they consider it an issue? If you even remotely hesitate to say “no” then it probably isn’t advisable to show it.

couldnt all these questions be summed up by simple asking the boss if it is OK? If I were in this situation, that is the first person I would have went to.

Having had this conversation several times before publishing my book, I’d say the people in here are being a bit dramatic. It is always a good idea to ask, or at least have a before hand understanding. I actually write it into my proposals! Everyone I’ve talked to is completely cool with it being in a personal portfolio, as long as you don’t really show anything that is a true trade secret. Showing a sketch of a scanner you designed 3 years ago is not giving away any trade secrets. Don’t get it twisted, most of the real IP is in the engineering.I only had one past client not want me to put the work in my book, and yet the same client was totally cool with it being in my portfolio.

Don’t put anything not on the market that isn’t well dead as a project online!

Also, a little mystery is a good thing. Sometimes I’ll crop an image down to the smallest detail, and use that as a prop in my in person portfolio to say I have a lot more, I can’t talk about it…

merged the two topics.

I think there will not be any problem…for example: you have worked on project 8 years ago, it hasbeen produced & even phased out of the market. I believe, I can add that product & design process (sketches & drafting work blurred image) as a part of portfolio.

I am use ever time this information for my site… so thanks for this information,