Using Work from Previous Employer

qmanning's picture

I'd like to get a temperature readout from fellow designers about using work from a previous employer to hock your own future endeavors.

Same old story, worked for a company, did a lot of great work, but since I'm no longer with the company, I can't really show it. I left to do my own thing, to fix the problems I continually saw that no one would let me really address correctly, but being able to get work relies heavily on your ability to show you can do the work.

I have a couple of clients who are friendly with me, who will utilize me, rather than the company where I was formerly employed. They are fine with me using their work as examples of my skills, but as they were done while at another company who does similar projects, who may have those projects listed in their own portfolio, you can see the dilemma.


blank's picture

If your employment contract did not prohibit you from showing it there’s no reason not to. But using it in an online portfolio would tempt fate, so you might have to do what Brodovitch did when he came to the states: make a fake portfolio of work for imaginary clients.

qmanning's picture

My contract doesn't explicitly state anything, as they never got around to having me sign anything. This was a mistake on their part, but one that works to my advantage.

Unless I had express permission from the owner of the project, I would never show the work. So anything proprietary or unreleased wouldn't be shown.

I've thought about the imaginary client thing, but as I'm building a new website for the company, and find myself with text but few example images to show, well, you can see why I came to typophile anyway :p I'm doing as much as I can with text and design on the page itself to show my skills, but when I'm discussing usability & design concepts, to not be able to show my work is hampering. And creating project that showed my skills would be even tougher :p

Thanks for your reply :) More food for thought!

Jackson's picture

Since you're showing the work publicly, the proper thing to do would be to ask your former employer for permission to show the work. Your employment contract with them is only one detail, they also had contracts with the clients, which frequently include NDAs and other details.

If you do show the work, be very clear about what your role was in the project and give credit to your collaborators.

PabloImpallari's picture

You can show your work, as long as you make very clear that it was done while working at the company you where working at that moment. If you are clear about that, it shouldn't be a problem.
I mean: don't just show the pretty pictures... add a line of two of text telling the story about it.

As an example: I've been running a little website design agency for severals year now, and I don't have any problem when designers that no longer works for me, shows the work they did when working whit us, in his own portfolios. As long as they states that the work was done for my company.

JamesM's picture

Nothing wrong with saying "I designed these pieces while working at company X" or "I was part of a team at company X that designed these".

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