Showcasing real work in your portfolio


I am an industrial designer with about 18 months experience looking for around for a new role.

Due to the nature of some of the projects I’ve worked on, the design process can take a long time for products to come to market, so probably aren’t yet ready to show to the public.

Also how would you approach the matter of putting things in your portfolio without indicating to the current employer that you are actively seeking a new role?

What is the best practice in terms of showing the process of the work in your portfolio?

I’m in almost the exact same situation. I’ve been told that hiring managers generally understand that you probably can’t show your most recent work. Heck, some people can’t show any of the development process from their time at a firm because it would jeopardize the firm’s relationship with the client–even after the product is launched.

I’m working on my own side projects/revamping old student projects in order to have content for my portfolio. Luckily I do have a couple small work projects that are on the market. Does it matter if your employer finds out that you’re updating your portfolio? I think it’s pretty standard for IDers to be constantly evolving their folio.

If you are using projects done in the workplace for your folio, I would confirm with your employer and their client that it is ok for you to do so. The work you have been paid to do is owned by them, even if the products have been released to market. I’d say that it’s normal practise to have an updated folio as well, and doesn’t necessarily mean you are actively looking.

This is the alternate way to do it. Show the skills you have with your own projects if you can’t use any professional work.

I think its important for you to communicate to your employer that as a designer, even though you’re updating your portfolio it doesn’t mean you’re jumping ship or looking for something new necessarily. Designers love to share, and a portfolio is a good source for them to get attention and share what they have done and the importance of it. It could actually help certain companies when people see that they have super talented designers on staff. However, I would be honest and review your NDA (If you have one, which I would hope you do) and other forms highlighting the secrecy of your work, and just make sure what you share is not in violation of these documents.

Always keep in mind the status of your portfolio when starting new work. It is best to have a good balance between confidential projects and consciously choosing some projects that you will be able to integrate in your portfolio on the short term. Also for the news value of your own name and business you need projects you can communicate to people around you. Mass manufactured products in liaison with large corporations in my experience take longest to come to market. So balance it with smaller projects for smaller businesses. You can design for Kickstarter startups and gain very early exposure on high news-value projects. Even for some complex products like drones and innovative vehicles there is often no NDA required since the company relies on early exposure for building a customer base and brand value.