Reworking sketches

What do you guys think about the practice of reworking process sketches after a project is completed in order to make for a better portfolio piece? For example: many people I went to school with would go back to old projects once they had gained better sketching skills and redo all their sketches. It seems to me that it is a little deceptive. After all, you should be showing the process of how you got to your final design, and this is like coming up with a final design and then creating a process to fit it.


Its totally normal. You should be showing your best work in your interviews, the worst thing to say is “well, I would do this differently now” don’t say it, show it. Your portfolio is not about a collection of projects, it is about a body of work. The portfolio is a the project.

I think one of the big mistakes that I made in a couple of the first portfolios I did, was to intentionally show some kind of chronological progress by not reworking any of my projects/sketches/renderings. I’m not entirely sure why I did it, maybe it was just for my own satisfaction/ego, but fact remains that no one but I cares about it. Sure, its fun to have a couple of years later and look back at… So are family photos, but they will probably not land me a job either.

I dont see any reason not to rework your earlier progress. Theres nothing that says that you need to change it 100%, keep whats good, interesting etc, and lose the rest.

My illusion of it is that employers want to see what you can do right now, because thats what matters to them. However, I think that its easy to overdo it. Scribbles are scribbles, and should be regarded as such. For example if you start putting in huge amounts of hardcore sketches that require a lot of time in to a context that makes it look like you whip out those with ease, then you suddenly portray a level that you cant live up to… (atleast not yet). Someone here told a story about an employee with an awesome portfolio with renders and sketches that they never saw a trace of when he actually started working there… I think that in the small world that ID actually is, its harder to get credibility then a job, but the prior is more valuable in the long run.

So be honest to yourself, show your current level, not where you were 3 years ago which is irrelevant and unnecessary


really?? because what you describe above as something that would effect your credibility, seems exactly like what was being described…isn’t it disingenuous to go back and rework process sketches and not affect the final outcome? just asking?

I dont see how reworking either sketches or an entire project is harming your credibility. My point was to do it in a way that is true to your normal/current way of working/skill, by for example showing the level of sketching you are at now, not where you were yesteryear.

I think it gets dangerous when you put an abnormal amount of work in to prettyfying everything way above your norm. Was that a clearer explenation?

I agree that reworking the process (in this case the sketches) but leaving the final result untouched might be a bit strange. Anyway for students I still think that reworking some of your old projects make sense. You’re not getting hired for the level you were on three years ago, so show them where you are now.

I’ve found it is normal among other designers, and I’ve also done it myself.

Particularly, with projects that I’ve found a particular sketch (that is important to the process) didn’t POP. What I do then is generally keep the same linework, and adjust the shading, the texture, the details, just clean it up with a fine tooth comb. I’m not changing the process, or the outcome, just tidying up a bit.

Exactly. just tighten it all up a notch if you need to elevate it to where your skills are now, but the result still holds up.

If you feel like you need to change the end out come though, just re-do the whole project (or don’t show it)

You’re not doing it to decieve people, you’re doing it to elevate the overall level of your portfolio. If you have one project that had AWFUL 3D would you feel bad about going back and changing the 3D? Just because we use 2D earlier in the process doesn’t mean you can’t go back and refine what might’ve come from a napkin sketch so that it speaks to your current skillset. Projects I did my 2nd year in college might’ve had some great thinking behind them, but I can tell you that to the outside world the sketches I did were poor, unintelligible, and would hurt my credibility more than help it.

In an interview people want to see your skills, and your thought process as well as understanding the story about how your project came to be. Going back and brushing up your intro is no different then reworking some lackluster renderings/surfaces. In an ultra competitive job market no one is going to want to see your crappy sketches justified by “well I didn’t want to touch these up after the project was completed because I’m an honest guy”. As true as it may be I’d rather see good work throughout a project even if the sketches happened over your summer break.

my thinking is it would be hard to temper the tendency to (alliteration!) go beyond what the norm would be…because you want to put forward your best, not your norm?

definitely, but i guess just assume the stuff that isn’t up to par would be omitted, and if a significant portion of a project wasn’t quite there yet; would it not be best to rework the whole project; because wouldn’t this new found ability/level of skill affect your “final” outcome was to be? and wouldn’t that be a more complete reflection of what your current capability as a designer is?

this brings me to another question though: so is everything in one’s portfolio open to this sort of adaptation? does/should any design project exist within the period of time it was completed?

You could rework an entire project, though one thing you lose by doing that is feedback gained on your original project. Your skill level may be higher, but you might also make some decisions you wouldn’t necessarily have made in school.

I think this also depends on where you are in your career. You obviously can’t rework a project that is released and on the market and say “well this is whats on the shelf, but this is what would’ve been way better!” because I think that would reflect poorly on your ability to execute in the real world - compared to the recent grad who wants to brush up work they skimped on at the time because they had a psychology test the next day.

Either way your portfolio is wholly owned by you - so you can make any changes you think would be appropriate, it’s just worth considering “what will my interviewer view this as and how do I present it to reflect that”.

Ultimately your portfolio is going to be about getting you new opportunities and you should shape it to best set you up for that.

I think I’ve always looked at it closer to how JB sees it. If I was going for fulltime, I’m assuming that the person wants to see an example of the real work day process, so I’ll show them exactly what got me to that point, no retouching. If the project/process was so sloppy or not relevant to my current skillsets, then I’ll re-do the project completely to show my new abilities.

But I guess with the whole honesty thing is that I’d feel like I want to show what they would see if they were looking over my shoulder as I did it. So if the new project was something that I’ve never designed before like shoes or a car, then my very first brainstorm sketches and doodles will be very off in terms of proportion, etc… But then as I move through the project and have now sketched the subject for hours, the work gets better and more accurate as the project progresses. I wouldn’t feel right to then go back and re-do those initial ugly drawings, it seems very dishonest to me. It’s like I’m telling a potential employer that they can throw any new product at me and I’ll be able to draw them perfectly right off the bat with correct proportions, etc… Then if that doesn’t happen while working with them the first week, they’ll be sitting there wondering what happened to my ability to do those awesome brainstorm sketches off the top of my head.

Now if what you want to do is to clean up your final presentation sketches/renderings, etc…to your current skill level, I think that’s fine. Those are meant to show you at your best and to just document the final designs, almost to the point of just being illustrations. But for the actual brainstorm and exploration sketches, I wouldn’t feel honest redoing those because you’re bound to spend more time on them and make them a lot cleaner and precise than you could draw real-time during the actual brainstorm session or while figuring out stuff on paper while talking with the modeling guy at his station.

Now what I do is to just try to elevate everything so that I won’t need to redo anything. Everything should be presentable to some extent with just some computer layout and photoshop enhancements/cleanup being added for presentation purposes.

I’ll add the disclaimer that I think the reworking aspect is appropriate for a student/recent grad, not so much the practicing professional.

I wouldn’t feel bad about going and reworking something I did my second year with the skills I had after my 4th year.

I would feel bad 2-3 years into my career redoing work on a product that I’ve already had released. At that point I just wouldn’t show any content if I didn’t think it was up to the level I wanted to show.