Pigeon holed into oblivion
August 29, 2007 6:40 AM   Subscribe

How do you apply for (design) positions if all the work you've done is proprietary information?

I am starting to feel trapped at my job as an interaction designer for a large, international, technology company. They have been my main employer basically since I've graduated from college. I like it here, but I'm youngish and I don't like feeling like I'm stuck here forever. As I explore career opportunities, many places ask for portfolios to display experience and skill. However, all my work is proprietary in nature and anything that has become public (very little) is now old and irrelevant.

How can I approach companies that have this policy?

I know there's the possibility of creating a personal portfolio, but seeing as how I'm not a graphic designer, or even a web designer, I'm kind of stumped how to show what I do without showing what I do, especially in a real world application kind of way.

Throwaway account at portfolio.askme@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Create a personal portfolio based on existing products by companies that are not your own (suitably sterilized of trademarks, of course).

Since you're an interaction designer, I assume your work requires coding support? If that's the case, storyboards and flow diagrams might help fill that gap.

...or, thought of differently, approach this entire problem as an interaction problem. How do you get people to interact with your skills? Given the limits, both technical and legal, how do you guide people through the things you can do?
posted by aramaic at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2007

When I was in a similar position I took a two-fold approach.

For starters, I took the work-for-hire stuff that I had local copies of and sanitized it. I removed the branding (replacing it with generic images the same size matching the color scheme) and replicated the work.

Then I followed up with the truth. Most of the shops I applied at were understanding because they share the same policy and don't want their proprietary stuff floating about. You are not the only person in this position and it might go better than you anticipate.

Employers like discretion and as tempting as it might be, the worst thing you could do is break confidentiality and 'sneak' them in the back door -- if you did it to the old job they figure you'll do it to them.
posted by cedar at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2007

What's proprietary? The interaction, or the words? If it's the words, could you change them to jibberish?
posted by clh at 12:49 PM on August 29, 2007

For the work that is now old and irrelevant can you get permission from your employer to at least place one or two screenshots in your portfolio?

Your other option it to simply take on non-proprietry design projects on the weekend to build up your public portfolio OR if you don't want to work after hours simply set yourself a few design projects and include the finished result in your portfolio as a "prototype" or "work in progress". As a full-time web designer this is something I do often because it's fun and it gives me a chance to show work that has not been modified by the client.

In terms of getting into the graphic design or web design industry from where you currently are, I'd think web would be the logical choice for you since you're already in the technology industry, but at the same time there's now increasing demand for web designers who can also do print design.

There are some places that offer "crash" courses in graphic design, they are very good and very expensive - $10,000 for 3 months and you come out with a Cert IV in Graphic Design ready to enter the industry. We have one here in Australia called Shillington, I'm sure there's an equievelant in your local area :)

As for learning web design I can't recommend any particular colleges or courses as I'm entirely self-taught and have learnt most of what I know on the job, but for the most part I've heard university and college web design courses are a waste of time as they teach out-dated information. In your place I would simply get online, start hunting up resources for learning web design, I'm sure there's already a million and one threads on this site to that effect :) And just play, get feedback from forums, learn by trial and error, etc.

I hope that helps. All the best!
posted by katala at 5:18 PM on August 29, 2007

« Older river polish stone   |   Fellow Web Designers - do you know of any places... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.