How do I share my porfolio when I'm still employed?
November 6, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

As a print / web designer, how do I share my portfolio when I've been (and still am) working for the same company for 5 years?

I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I'm a web designer (who doesn't do backend programming), a print designer, a photographer and general marketing person.

For the past 5 years I've worked for a small real-estate company with a handful of local branches, and my design portfolio consists almost entirely of work heavily branded with their logo.

I'm unhappy there now and want to find new employment elsewhere, but I'm nervous about putting out a portfolio of work which might somehow get back to them.

Ideally, I want to work for a small company where I can make a real difference to their marketing efforts, rather than a big design house, but I'll take what I can get right now.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's a problem many designers seem to run into. Most of my designer-friends, whenever they're stuck in unfulfilling roles doing work they're not particularly proud of, just work on their own projects at home. By which I mean designing a good-looking website for themselves and filling it with examples of the sorts of things they enjoy working on - in other words, lots of stuff they're just dreamt up, and lots of entries for the little design challenges found among the various design communities (so designs for t-shirts, albums covers, posters, product packaging, websites, whatever they're intop).

Having worked in a job where you've had little chance to stretch your design skills isn't, unfortunately, an excuse as far as finding a better job is concerned.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:00 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's almost exactly my resume right now. You can try to quickly diversify your portfolio by doing some spec work (eugh) at some of the various "crowdsourcing" places online like Crowdspring and GeniusRocket, (more listed here).

Definitely go to the small agencies in your area - you have good background. You've been at a place for years. Back in the dot-com days designers hopped around like fickle frogs. Nowadays stability is an asset. Play to that.

And if it gets back to your current employer just explain; don't apologize. Fess up. Yes I've enjoyed my time here but the time has come for me to move on. I am still going to work with you until I find my next job but now that the cat's out of the bag it'd be a great time to talk about starting to look for my replacement. I can help train them.

That sort of thing.
posted by carlh at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

carlh is right on...I wouldn't worry too much about your current employer's reaction, so long as you have a response prepared.
posted by circular at 9:25 AM on November 6, 2010

You can also consider setting up a simple or Tumblr site, both of which allow you to have password protected pages or blogs or whatever.

Put your branded portfolio stuff behind the password protected area and only give that out to people you are interviewing with.

There is no ethical problem with your putting this work in your portfolio. Almost all design work is done for someone else who ultimately owns the work.

If you're not publishing the work to the public, or reusing it in an unethical fashion, there is no problem.
posted by device55 at 11:19 AM on November 6, 2010

I worked at a company that was extremely sensitive about this sort of thing. What I did is I kept my portfolio up the whole time I was there but filled it with freelance work I had been doing on the side. Then on a "hidden" page on my site (not linked to from anywhere on the rest of the site) I put all the stuff I wanted to show for the company I was currently working for. When I wrote to potential employers, I would include BOTH links. I don't know if that came across strange or not but I thought it was a good solution. After I left the company I immediately took down the "hidden" page. A couple months later I simply added the work to my site.
posted by wundermint at 1:41 PM on November 6, 2010

Your options are:

1) freelance work;
2) open source work like something on sourceforge ;
3) personal, generic work demonstrating the particular skill set you want to show
4) combination of the above

You have to be cautious about showing work in a portfolio that you may not have rights to such as, intranet or confidential material. Now, if the website in question is a public website then you can do this:

1) take snapshots of the website pages that are relevant to you. Websites change and simply linking is a bit risky because of potential changes that may look like you are fudging or less technically proficient than stated;

For your personal stress and future portfolio, have material that is solely yours or that there will be no dispute about. Now, future employers will not find it odd you showing public pages from a previous place BUT they will wonder if you are showing pages that would be deemed confidential or not public facing. At that point, you have introduced the possibility that you will be possibly reckless with their material.

Wundermint may have a viable solution as long as it is the public facing pages. YMMV but you need to be sure that you present a persona of discretion.

I also caution people on working for free . One of the things that hamper discussions on web design with clients is the assumption that it is easy and that hey, "my nephew/cousin/child/friend/one legged grandmother" can put out a website but another thing that can be problematic is scope creep. If you plan to do anything for free or as donation set down some VERY clear guidelines or that the guidelines set by the project manager are real clear so you are not trapped having to update things forever or be on call. This applies to friends and relatives too. Seriously, it can be better to work for strangers; weigh things carefully.
posted by jadepearl at 6:17 PM on November 6, 2010

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