We are proud to announce our NEW community destination. Engage with resident experts and fellow entrepreneurs, and learn everything you need to start your business. Check out the new home of StartupNation Community at startupnation.mn.co

Marketing Portfolio Ethics?

SecurityProfessionalSecurityProfessional subscriber Posts: 2
edited October 2007 in Marketing
I am interested in getting some opinions about a marketing/ethics issue concerning the use of material that was created when a design professional worked for previous employers.
Let`s say that I am a graphics designer. For the first five years of my career, I worked for Acme Graphic Design company. During this time, I was personally responsible for the creation of dozens of different items, including logos, packaging designs, and other promotional items.
I then leave Acme and start my own graphics design business, called Mike`s Graphics. I create a web site and provide an on-line portfolio of my past work. Naturally, the majority of my portfolio consists of work that was created when I was at Acme, because to date, this represents the bulk of my past experience.
My questions are:
1) Is it ethical to post samples of past work I did while I was at Acme? Do I need to get Acme`s permission to do this? (Now that I am a competitor they may have little reason to cooperate with me.)
2) What if Acme`s clients see samples of their work on my website? They may remember that they used Acme to do some design work, but may not remember the name of the specific designer that worked on the project. They have never had a relationship with my company, Mikes Graphics. Should I have obtained the client`s permission prior to posting their material on my web site? Can the client legitimately ask that I remove their material from my site?
3) Not every piece of design work may actually be used by a client. If I designed a logo for a product, and the product was never released to the public, would it still be OK to have this logo in my portfolio, or would this be a breech of client confidentiality?


  • Options
    blondieblueblondieblue subscriber Posts: 9
    Do you want the good news or the bad news?
    Good News ... Welcome to SuN.
    Bad News ... any and all creations while in the employ of another is the property of the company. Your portfolio starts from scratch ... if you do not obtain the permission of the prior employer. Remeber, copyright and intellectual property law is not for the amatuer. My suggestion ... seek legal advice from an intellectual property attorney ... not from folks here at SuN.
  • Options
    LogoMotivesLogoMotives subscriber Posts: 15
    Another person in agreement with blondieblue.  I know way too many designers who have received a nasty letter from the attorney of a former employer demanding that the former employee cease using the "property" of the former employer in their own marketing/promotion efforts.It is always best to ask permission.  It is even better to negotiate future usage, should you later decide to leave a position, prior to being hired by an employer.This can be a huge issue for independent designers as well.  I deal with it in advance in my project agreement with the following clause:The designer retains personal rights to use the completed project and
    any preliminary designs for the purpose of design competitions, future
    publications on design, educational purposes and the marketing of the
    designer`s business. Where applicable the client will be given any
    necessary credit for usage of the project elements.- J.
    LogoMotives2007-10-30 9:30:26
  • Options
    LogoMotivesLogoMotives subscriber Posts: 15

    I agree with Nikole that it is a very, very rare instance where a cease letter might be sent.  And if you ever receive one, you can decide what to do then.  Yes, the works actually belong to someone else legally, but you do have a right to use it in a portfolio.  And it is ridiculous that you would have to ask permission.It happens much more than you realize and is often a topic on various design forums and at design conferences where I speak.  In addition, asking permission in such situations is not ridiculous - it`s a professional courtesy.Personally, I don`t think going ahead and posting such work - with the hopes you won`t get caught - is a very UNprofessional (oops!)  tactic.  I think it shows just how little respect a designer has for the employer or client.- J.LogoMotives2007-10-30 14:16:31
  • Options
    LogoMotivesLogoMotives subscriber Posts: 15

    And Jeff, I am not suggesting that someone post work "with the hopes you won`t get caught" as you put it.  I`m saying that "getting caught" isn`t even at all getting caught.  By using a work for portfolio purposes, a designer is not doing anything wrong.Steve, I wasn`t referring to a specific comment you made in regards to the "getting caught" issue.  I was simply referring to the mentions throughout the thread of using work and only removing it if the use was discovered and the designer asked to take it down.  Unfortunately, in some cases, using work designed for an employer or client is wrong.  Especially when a designer has signed away their rights completely with an employment agreement, confidentiality statement or client agreement.  In a lot of cases the designer has not been wise enough to read the fine print of an agreement - and then is stunned when they are asked to remove work from their website.  For many businesses, especially design firms and ad agencies, it is an issue of only wanting the work associated with the name of company producing it.  To be perfectly honest, there are many firms out there that don`t want it known who has done specific work for clients - especially when that individual leaves the firm for some reason.  The previous employer has a concern that the client may find out and go directly to the the now independent designer for the design work.  The cases do end up being legal battles in some situations.I no longer do design work for other design firms or ad agencies because most would not allow me to use the work for any self-promotion purposes - on the web or in a traditional portfolio.  What it really comes down to is the majority of these firms don`t want the client knowing that the work has been contracted out.In putting together my new book Identity Crisis! numerous design firms had to back out of participation because their clients would not allow the work executed to be published - even though it was simply being used to market the designer or design firm in question.  Some of these situations involved major well-known corporations using the services of outside designers/firms.  My publisher covered their rear-end by requiring that signed permission for use of the projects is provided - or the work is  not used in the book.  Employers and clients can prevent such usage.I recently had a situation where I`d been negotiating project details with a potential large client for several weeks.  Everything was all ironed out and I was told to send them my project agreement so we could get things going.  The contract came back with the "designer`s rights" clause I posted earlier in this thread crossed out, dated and initialed by the VP with whom I`d been working.  I was kind of stunned - from day one they had a copy of my project agreement and it stated I retained all rights to use the project concepts and final projects for my own self-promotion purposes.  The firm was now saying I could not.  I told them that if I couldn`t use their project for future promotion purposes I was not the designer for them.  I was ready to walk.  I didn`t hear anything from them for a couple days and then a new signed copy of my project agreement arrived with the original clause intact.These situations do happen.  Designers need to be pro-active in making sure they have all rights and permissions, to use designed work for their own marketing and promotion purposes, clarified and in order.  It`s not something that should be taken for granted.- J.LogoMotives2007-10-30 17:34:0
Sign In or Register to comment.