Secretly Putting company pieces in portfolio


You are of course allowed to look for a new job.
Being shady about it is never, NEVER a good idea.
The community is very close and depending on what and where you work, bad behavior and disloyalty might very well boomerang back to you if you are not careful.

Btw, I am assuming you did not just ask if you can show work without the consent of your employer… which, of course, you can’t.

So you have to come up with an entirely new portfolio from scratch none of which actually made it to production?

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Are you really a designer??
All of the designs you have done for the company belong to them whether made into production or not. You need consent in order to show any of it.

No, beyond honesty and ethics, the basic feeling is, “if you are showing me something you are not supposed to, I can only assume you will show someone else whatever you work on for me.”

You lot are kidding right?? Unless it is different in North America. If i have worked on a project for a company I put the work in my portfolio, obviously the work (commercial rights) remain that of the employer.

I would not be expected to produce a whole new body of work for interview, although you might add some more concept driven pieces. I can’t think of many worse situations than being asked if the pieces have been produced only to say no to every example. Unless of course you are straight out of uni, in which case you may only have made prototypes.

More often then naught, once it has gone to production, company’s are fine with you showing images of the final project. Some maybe willing to allow you to show the concept development phase as long as there are no items that they are looking at producing in the future. Now if you do a design that doesn’t make it to production and the company has no desire to do anything with it they may be willing to allow you to show it (ask first!)

The whole point of NOT show work that hasn’t made it to production yet is so that you do not violate the patent process (if the company is applying for a patent) or a competitor gets the chance to beat them to market (along with a few other reasons).

The statement about it being a small design community and being able to trust that your employees will keep confidential work confidential is extremely valuable, and if you get a reputation for showing things you aren’t allowed it can damage your reputation and job opportunities. I have had permission to show some project but asked not to go into detail, during the interview I gave a broad overview, and when asked for more detail I respectfully told them that although I am allowed to show the work I have been asked not to go into to much detail. The interviewer respected that and if they didn’t and had pushed for me to give more info I probably would have left as that is not a company I want to work for.

If there are any moderators reading this I would propose that we have a forum section (unless there is one) that is for Design ethics / Business ethics / Design legalities.

This is basically what the NDA is all about and every employer is a little different and various countries have tighter or looser principals when it comes to this… And some company monitor the web with crawlers looking for their name in the search and if they find that you have posted an image say on core of work you have done with their name associated to it… you will receive a nasty little email very quickly!

One more thing, I was always taught that if you have a thought that it may not be ethical it is best to err on the side of safety and NOT do it, unless you ask and receive permission.

If you do not want to ask because you know the answer is no and you show the work anyway then this is more of a personal ethic problem.

Fair point chev, I imagine things change with patents and different areas of design.

If I understand you correctly, you are making the point that the decision of what to show and what to discuss lies with the employee and not the employer?
If this is the case, you might get into a lot of trouble for this, being in the US has nothing to do with that. This is very very dangerous and it should be made clear on these forums.
If you have signed an NDA when you started working which every serious employer makes you do, you have most likely agreed to not speak about or show any work that has not been released or has been given approval to by the company.

You must, and I can not emphasize this enough, ask before you show unreleased work. Your reputation could be severely damaged.
Chances that you will get away with it are slim to non existent as all good studios and firms have a good idea what has been released by the competition. They see a project that they have never seen before from competitor X, they will presume that you are showing it without approval. I would go as far as get a written statement from your earlier workplaces, that you are in fact allowed to discuss unreleased work. I have a couple of those.

Here a warning experience I had:
I recommended a former classmate of mine for a position a couple of years ago. In the interview this person showed unreleased work she had done at another studio without asking. Needless to say, she did not just get turned down but the designer I recommended her to called both the current employer and me.
I stuck my neck out and needless to say, I won’t recommend her again.

To add to bepster’s well put post, I have an important detail to add. I discovered this through a Q&A session with an IP lawyer that I had present in my Professional Practice class a few weeks ago:

I originally told my students that you can show anything that has made it into the “public domain”. The lawyer told me that this is incorrect and you can only show things that have been “publicly disclosed”. What this means is that the owner of the IP has purposefully disclosed to the public the product, service, etc.

So while someone might illegally put information on the IP into the public domain, showing your work on it could cause you to also be implicated in a lawsuit by the IP owner.

This becomes very difficult when some companies try to make it look like everyone is getting a sneak peek from a third party. So if something is in the public domain but it looks like the owner is not the discloser, then you should ask if it is okay to show the work and get a response in writing.

This reminds me of the latest season of Mad Men, when the short guy with no experience whatsoever is interviewing with Don Draper, desperately begging for a job, and has no chance of getting it… Don opens the guy’s portfolio… and its filled with huge ad campaigns that the guy never worked on.

Guy says, they’re his inspiration, and he doesn’t see why it is a problem to put them in his own portfolio.

In other words… F*cked.

The Cure for the Common Cereal.

If I go to ask permission then they will know im looking for new job, which is exactly what I want to avoid… in case my new job search doesn’t work out in this economy I would still like the security of having a job because o have loans to pay…

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If the designs made it into production and are public domain (IE I can go to your company website and see it) there are no issues with presenting the FINAL PRODUCT as part of your portfolio. No different then if you walked into a store and say “hey I designed that!”.

The concept work is another story. If you are under NDA you can not show that work. If there were a bunch of features you designed but didn’t make it to production you can’t go off showing that stuff around. You can talk about your process and how you got somewhere but if something is confidential it’s confidential, other companies should understand and respect that.

We have hired plenty of designers who were still employed and I can not think of any who showed concept work unless it was stuff they did on their own or specifically stated it wasn’t under NDA.

If you did work NOT under NDA then you should be able to show it - but be very clear about that or the legalities get ugly.

I’ve been in the same position as you are HOTSUMA, and to be frank your handling this pretty poorly. Chances are that if you dislike your job, the company you are working for knows it. Most companies don’t get vindictive when you say you are looking at other options. Its a reality of the job world. I did the same thing for a short period when i was a freelancer. I was working, essentially full time at this company for 1.5 years and they never made me a full time offer. So I applied to multiple job openings for any type of design, POP, Medial, Product, Toy, etc. During this period of time I let them know i was interviewing. Once i got a solid offer from a different company i let them know, and lo and behold they counter offered with a raise in pay and a full time position.

As for using confidential and proprietary information in your portfolio, its up to you. Put it in there, maybe you’ll get away with it. maybe you’ll land your dream job. Conversely you also might be found out, fired from your position, blacklisted from the companies you’ve applied to and then your screwed. Ethically I’m not going to tell you how to run your life, just be prepared for the consequences of your actions to catch you.

“If I understand you correctly, you are making the point that the decision of what to show and what to discuss lies with the employee and not the employer?”

Yes that is the point I’m making, it may well be that we work in different areas of design. I can well understand Apple or Dell wanting to keep all their ideas under wraps, but in my sector (exhibition/furniture design) the innovations are not as great, and an exhibition stand design is used for 2 years at the very most.

I would also argue that the legal system in the US is different in that people LOVE to sue, this was going a similar direction in the UK which I believe the new government aim on stamping out. For example is it fair you get sued for whiplash if you gently bump someones car, I guarntee that happens in the US or at least they are stereotyped as a litigious nation.

I can kind of understand the original poster not wanting to tell his employer he is looking for work as whilst he won’t be sacked, he may get pushed/forced out, very common here in the UK and a reason why big industry holds on to Unions.

Having said the above I appear to be in the minority so would not like to advise. I think it boils down to both myself, current and former employers not being to concerned with others taking our ideas after all most people are not like this (Do you steal ideas?) besides I’ll always have another idea.

Just to clarify, do you understand what an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) is and have you every signed any of those?

Suing is not really the problematic consequence here since we are talking about small to mid sized studio. They will not start a legal battle.
What to expect is a tarnished reputation and that the prospective employer very well might assume that you don’t care about company secrets. If he were to hire you, his company secrets.

The area of design has no significance. I work with furniture and exhibition design and have worked in both the US as well as the UK.

The trade is too small, too many people who know each other - you can’t be sure. For instance, I received a resume from someone who claimed to have worked 6 months at ‘x’ company in California. They didn’t know that I knew the head of design - yes, he was from the USA but he’d worked with me 10 years previously, in London.

I called him and found out that said person had done a two week placement and wasn’t that great.

If you show stuff you’re not supposed to, it does tend to backfire. I work on product that I can never show. a third of my work is for a client that I have an NDA with, I can’t even tell you who they are, not even which country it is, never mind show work. I’m just finishing up a technical riding boot project. I’m really proud of it. The client is pleased too, but I cannot disclose the brand or any of the work, even when it’s at retail. Yes it is frustrating but one of the reasons clients stay with us and come to us is that they know their secrets are safe with us. If someone asks to see work I just say that I can’t show it, it’s confidential as it isn’t in the market yet. They accept it.

The boot has been on the other foot, a client asked me to sit in an interview with another freelancer. He showed us confidential work. He didn’t get the gig. It all came accross as a bit desperate and didn’t do him any favours.

Trust is very important as is honesty. Please don’t do it, it might not seem that way but you’re making yourself less attractive to employers.

Hi sorry for the slow reply, 100% have not signed a NDA at my current job, my last place I would have to check, but we openly discussed if certain designs would be good for portfolios. I guess some people/companies are more precious/paranoid about there work than others.

LOL at the placement scenario, everyone flatters the truth in their resume’s but adding on 5.5 months work to your CV is not going to work, especially at such an early stage in your career. It is hard though getting that first paid job, I was lucky but others, people who came out with first class degrees have not gained paid postions.

At my last place they had a work exp lad, no one sodding well helped or gave him work to do. That was partly because we were very busy, but why offer a work exp when you can’t manage them. So perhaps “said person” received no help or advice. Still this industry is riddled with work exp, “Come work with us and do some Cinema 4D” hahaha! no pay me!!

i like your UFO plate bepster, my deceased budgie would have loved it!!