What to include in a portfolio of digital design work
September 28, 2015 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Hoping to get input from marketing/ad professionals on including paid (but unpublished) work in a portfolio.

Updating a long-neglected portfolio of web and interactive design efforts. I won’t include spec work, but I have a few freelance projects for which I was paid, but the resultant work remains unpublished for various reasons (national office of a regional presence canceled the larger project, a certain drug failed to get FDA approval, issues like that).

The portfolio is organized by client, but I’m wondering how a “Design Explorations”-type bucket, clearly marked as consisting of paid but unpublished work, would appear to prospective employers (I’m currently an ACD at a traditional ad agency with digital capability, and looking for a similar position). It’s some of my stronger work visually, so I’d love to include it if possible, but I’d certainly like to avoid the impression that I’m trying to pad or inflate anything - Thank you.
posted by jalexei to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As long as you mark it as such.

When I look at portfolios of web designers sometimes I see they have done work for
XYZ Corporation. Then I go to XYZ Corporation's website and I see that their live website is something totally different to the one in the designers portfolio. This would raise a red flag for me. For example, why did the designer say he designed a website for XYZ Corporation yet they are using a totally different design?

So include this experimental work but make sure that you mark it as "experimental". You might want to add the reason also. For example, I used this design to integrate A + B to achieve C. Including this work does have value because it give potential clients a deeper understanding of your abilities. Moreover, it show that your motivation for your work is borne out of passion and not just the dollar.
posted by jacobean at 9:00 AM on September 28, 2015

I think experimental unpaid is different than experimental paid, and I would differentiate between the two. When I look at a designer's portfolio I keep in mind that sometimes work is published/used, but then replaced in a later redesign or rebranding effort. So the fact that it's not part of the current website or look doesn't bother me.
posted by amaire at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2015

I'd care about the evidence of the work you can do. Whether or not it was paid, no longer in use, spec, whatever doesn't really matter to me as long as you aren't misrepresenting anything.
posted by COD at 9:43 AM on September 28, 2015

As long as you're clearly noting that the work you did wasn't used (or was used and is now defunct), that'd be fine with me. It happens an awful lot; I think everyone who'll be reviewing your book has had it happen to them (I know I sure have!).
posted by culfinglin at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2015

If it looks polished and shows conceptual thinking, I'd be fine with it. The only thing I hate is spec work that just doesn't look right (wrong logos, bad Photoshopping, etc.) You can put it all in an "explorations" section if you want, but I don't think that's necessary. I care about your thinking and your craft. Those things apply whether the work actually lived in the world or not. Heck, half the stuff at Cannes doesn't actually run anywhere, not for real.
posted by missjenny at 7:35 PM on September 28, 2015

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