Online UX Portfolio - Conflict of Interest?

30 Apr 2010 - 12:32pm
3 years ago
14 replies
4110 reads
twarita
2010

Hi fellow designers,

There have been some interesting discussions about UX resumes recently, and along similar lines, I had some questions about online UX portfolios.

For some time now I have been thinking about putting together an online portfolio that showcases my design work. For the last 3.5 years or so I have been working as a full-time employee in the capacity of an interaction designer for a company that makes great desktop software. (And I plan to continue working there for many more years.) I am quite proud of the work I have done there and would really like to be able to include it in my online portfolio. However, I am never quite sure of what I can and cannot display as my contribution on my personal website.

I understand the obvious restrictions – don’t reveal things that have not been publicly released yet, don’t imply that the product/feature is owned by me, no misrepresentation, no lies etc. etc. But is it okay to display in my portfolio sketches / wireframes / screen captures / videos of the design work I have done for products that have been released to market?

To get my question answered, I went to the legal department in my firm. Here’s what they said: There is no company policy that prevents an employee from uploading pictures videos etc. of stuff that has been already released (with all the obvious restrictions mentioned above). However, they also pointed out that my personal website should not pose a conflict of interest with the company. Now I am left wondering – showcasing my design abilities via an online portfolio – is that a “conflict of interest”? I don’t want to be doing anything unethical, let alone anything illegal!

What do you think? Do you have an online portfolio that showcases your software design work (not web design)? How does your company feel about it? Do you have examples of portfolios like that?

Thanks SO much for your help!

Twarita

Comments

30 Apr 2010 - 12:49pm
Mike Dunn
2008

This is a problem that I have been wrestling with as well. I think the key here is communication with those who you provided the service. Designers in general have a right to "fair use" of their work even if it was for-hire, but considering that the nature of what we do might in some cases display trade secrets or proprietary information represents a very sticky area.  I think you did the right thing by soliciting approval from your employers. I DON'T feel it represents a conflict of interest to present images in an online portfolio where it is clearly stated who you did the work for and such.

30 Apr 2010 - 2:39pm
jmbanks
2010

Hey Twarita,

I'd be inclined to believe that the concern over "conflict of interest" has to do with you having a personal website that looks to solicit freelance work along the same lines of what you are doing at your company. So if you are using your online portfolio to showcase work you've completed at your company, with the intention of getting freelance work that is of the same type of work you're doing at your company (or on similar products) there would be a conflict of interest.

If you're simply putting a portfolio online to showcase your work for everyone to see, I'd presume you're in the clear.

Regards,
Jason

Disclaimer: I am by no means a legal authority :)

30 Apr 2010 - 4:00pm
mcaskey
2008

Wow, good question. I second that question to the group!

I have gone back and forth on this myself. I have posted a couple of works that I did for a University, and was actually asked (within a couple days) to take it down, or else! Might have just been an overzealous admin at the U, but it definitely stuck with me.

Interested in this one!

Mike C.

On 4/30/10 1:39 PM, twarita wrote: > Hi fellow designers, > > There have been some interesting discussions about UX resumes > recently, and along similar lines, I had some questions about online > UX portfolios. > > For some time now I have been thinking about putting together an > online portfolio that showcases my design work. For the last 3.5 years > or so I have been working as a full-time employee in the capacity of > an interaction designer for a company that makes great desktop > software. (And I plan to continue working there for many more years.) > I am quite proud of the work I have done there and would really like > to be able to include it in my online portfolio. However, I am never > quite sure of what I can and cannot display as my contribution on my > personal website. > > I understand the obvious restrictions – don’t reveal things that have > not been publicly released yet, don’t imply that the product/feature > is owned by me, no misrepresentation, no lies etc. etc. But is it okay > to display in my portfolio sketches / wireframes / screen captures / > videos of the design work I have done for products that have been > released to market? > > To get my question answered, I went to the legal department in my > firm. Here’s what they said: There is no company policy that prevents > an employee from uploading pictures videos etc. of stuff that has been > already released (with all the obvious restrictions mentioned above). > However, they also pointed out that my personal website should not > pose a conflict of interest with the company. Now I am left wondering > – showcasing my design abilities via an online portfolio – is that a > “conflict of interest”? I don’t want to be doing anything unethical, > let alone anything illegal! > > What do you think? Do you have an online portfolio that showcases your > software design work (not web design)? How does your company feel > about it? Do you have examples of portfolios like that? > > Thanks SO much for your help! > > Twarita > > (((Please leave al

30 Apr 2010 - 7:42pm
Alan James Salmoni
2008

My suggestion would be to prepare the portfolio content and take it to your legal department for a quick check before you make anything public. It might be worth asking your manager for opinions too because they will bring the business opinion. This way, you are in the clear: legal depts are most often very conservative. If your portfolio is acceptable to legal and business, then that is, in effect, the company saying that they have no problems. 

 

It's a long process, but you can be certain that you're okay. btw, just in case: get opinions etc in writing, not verbally, and record them somewhere.

 

30 Apr 2010 - 8:50pm
Chris McLay
2005

This is a difficult problem I think. A large percentage of my work in recent years hasn’t gone public yet, or is on projects that will never be public. This makes life very difficult.

I find it’s always best to show the portfolio item to any related parties and get their approval before you post it publicly online. This is a slow and wearisome process, and you won’t always get permission to post it at the end.

For me, I have pretty much decided not to have a publicly available online folio. Instead I produce a secure PDF for each prospective client and employer and let them download it. This gives me much more flexibility and saves a lot of hassles.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s not a terrible one either.

Chris

-- Chris McLay.

041 123 9190 http://eeoh.com.au/chris/

> (((Please

1 May 2010 - 7:30am
Anonymous

By making development processes available on a publically accessible website, you are effectively allowing your employer's competition to see "how they do things" which I would consider a conflict of interest and entirely unethical. I would also need to ask if the work shown was entirely your own or partly the work of others?

I personally don't see the need for such a portfolio for personal use, which is not to say I can't understand the desire for one, but I don't believe it is an acceptable way to exhibit such work. If you were running your own business and using the same sort of material for self-promotion, that would be entirely between yourself and your clients and, with permission, perfectly acceptable - although I personally do not make such information publically available from my own work or clients.

Note I'm not suggesting that it's unethical to use the sort of material discussed entirely. Creating a personal offline portfolio for use of showing potential employers, fellow industry professionals or potential clients if you choose to engage in non-competitive freelance work is largely fine as long as your employers are aware of this use.

The core difference as I see it is between information open to anyone and open to those it is relevant to at the time.

1 May 2010 - 4:40pm
fj
2010

cmorrell wrote:

I personally don't see the need for such a portfolio for personal use, [...]

 

Note I'm not suggesting that it's unethical to use the sort of material discussed entirely. Creating a personal offline portfolio for use of showing potential employers, fellow industry professionals or potential clients if you choose to engage in non-competitive freelance work is largely fine as long as your employers are aware of this use.

 

You may not see the need, but almost every job posting I see on this actual board that mentions a portfolio asks for an online one. Not an offline one. Your ethics cuts a lot of jobseekers from good jobs. Employers are not interested in personal fun projects, but in people who can prove they produce business-quality results.

I made one too, but I set the robots.txt to make sure Google didn't index it. It used to have only personal projects and concepts on it, and nobody cared about what were essentially my hobbies. It was only when I started showing how I produced results vetted by other people in industry, i.e. actual cases from actual work, that I got traction.

1 May 2010 - 8:00pm
Chris McLay
2005

fj wrote:

> cmorrell wrote: > >> I personally don't see the need for such a portfolio for personal use, […] > > You may not see the need, but almost every job posting I see on this actual board that mentions a portfolio asks for an online one. Not an offline one. Your ethics cuts a lot of jobseekers from good jobs. Employers are not interested in personal fun projects, but in people who can prove they produce business-quality results. > > I made one too, but I set the robots.txt to make sure Google didn't index it. It used to have only personal projects and concepts on it, and nobody cared about what were essentially my hobbies. It was only when I started showing how I produced results vetted by other people in industry, i.e. actual cases from actual work, that I got traction.

This is a genuine problem in the industry. In my opinion portfolio’s very rarely reflect the skills of the interaction designer or UX professional. There are far to many other inputs into a project that impact on the final outcome.

But you are right, very many people want to see what you’ve done. I’m not sure how to change this, but hopefully it will change.

Chris

> (((Pleas

1 May 2010 - 3:54pm
bnaj
2010

cmorrell and Chris M-

How does an offline portfolio that is only shared with potential employers get around the issue of conflict of interest?  Aren't you still showcasing "how you do things" to the public,  and to boot, a public that may very well be your last company's competitior? 

This issue of leaking too much info has been a very sticky one for me as well.  I am someone new to the field and have done all of my professional work in the last year.  I am looking for FT employment but can't discuss interesting details or findings that communicate the research I did had value to the design process.  How do I showcase my previous work in a way that is compelling or interesting?

 

 

1 May 2010 - 8:00pm
Chris McLay
2005

bnaj,

I don’t think that sharing something with someone directly makes it public. If I lend you a DVD, then I amm not sharing it publicly, I’m just sharing it with you.

That said, you do have a point. There are potential conflicts of intreats, and you have to consider these. This is why I share a custom portfolio when I’m asked for one. I have a 50-60 page pdf document that I usually strip down to 10-15 pages for each employer / potential client. I then choose what to share specifically.

Further to this. If I was to share genuinely commercially sensitive material then I’d be pretty stupid. No employer / client is going to want to see their projects shared publicly before they choose to launch them. I’d just be burning bridges all round.

As with everything in this industry, context is critical, and your professional judgement is important.

Chris

On 02/05/2010, at 8:55 AM, bnaj wrote:

> cmorrell and Chris M- > > How does an offline portfolio that is only shared with potential employers get around the issue of conflict of interest? Aren't you still showcasing "how you do things" to the public, and to boot, a public that may very well be your last company's competitior? > > This issue of leaking too much info has been a very sticky one for me as well. I am someone new to the field and have done all of my professional work in the last year. I am looking for FT employment but can't discuss interesting details or findings that communicate the research I did had value to the design process. How do I showcase my previous work in a way that is compelling or interesting? > >
> >
> > (((Please

1 May 2010 - 5:28pm
EngageMotion
2008

From the context, I would assume your internal lawyer threw the "conflict of interest" phrase in as a catch-all.

As others have suggested, if they are accessible, I would probably have them briefly review the images, etc... before you post publicly. Not only will this make you feel more confident in the end, but it also shows a high degree of "good will" to the legal department as far as wanting to do the right thing for the company.

CV

3 May 2010 - 9:23am
Alan James Salmoni
2008

Alternatively, there is the option of anonymising products / services. I recently designed a product "compare and select" tool for a bank's range of accounts which I thought offered a good interaction - certainly the user testing went well. My manager said that I could show it off as long as it was anonymised, e.g., make it display Internet plans for an ISP for comparison and selection rather than bank accounts. This can help get around the confidentiality issues as long as it isn't clear which company the work was for (a problem if you have only one employer!). Check with legal again when you've drawn something up for their opinion.

 

But the project was released a few weeks ago so I can now include it in my portfolio. The design process is quite bland (it's based on my knowledge of psychology and problem solving & information search strategies, testing, and a lot of educated guesswork) but it shows that I can begin with a problem and arrive at a solution that was implemented in the real world and doesn't offer much of an insight into the bank's processes.

 

4 May 2010 - 7:20am
Mudit Mittal
2007

I've been working as an interaction designer for last 3 years now. I've come across situations where I wanted to showcase samples of work with others. Mostly the samples were from the work which got modified completely in team-work or where the client chose other option as more suitable to business needs. So essentially non used materials, which are 'legally' part of company's IP because i'm being paid for my work at office.


I came up with a solution for that. I created my portfolio as a ppt/pdf and uploaded it on slideshare.net and coroflot.com
Both the sites give you options to make your documents public or private. In private mode, you provide a url to the person whom you want to share it with and only (s)he gets to see that, not the entire world. This option may work out provided you let your peers and managers know of the existence of such portfolio. In my case, the solution didn't gel well with the management. I hope its not the same case with others.



Thanks & regards,
Mudit Mittal
[m] +91.99.204.80802
[e ] mittal.mudit@gmail.com
------------------------------------------------
[f  ] facebook.com/mittal.mudit

[i  ] in.linkedin.com/in/muditmittal
[t  ] twitter.com/muditmittal



On Mon, May 3, 2010 at 11:22 PM, Alan James Salmoni <salmoni@gmail.com> wrote:

Alternatively, there is the option of anonymising products / services. I recently designed a product "compare and select" tool for a bank's range of accounts which I thought offered a good interaction - certainly the user testing went well. My manager said that I could show it off as long as it was anonymised, e.g., make it display Internet plans for an ISP for comparison and selection rather than bank accounts. This can help get around the confidentiality issues as long as it isn't clear which company the work was for (a problem if you have only one employer!). Check with legal again when you've drawn something up for their opinion.

 

But the project was released a few weeks ago so I can now include it in my portfolio. The design process is quite bland (it's based on my knowledge of psychology and problem solving & information search strategies, testing, and a lot of educated guesswork) but it shows that I can begin with a problem and arrive at a solution that was implemented in the real world and doesn't offer much of an insight into the bank's processes.

 

(((Pl
4 Jul 2011 - 2:09pm
Erik_UX
2011

I don't have an answer to this problem. I have a bunch of internal and NDA covered projects and work, but like the article and comments state, it's nearly impossible to show them.

What I've done is try to write blog topics about each, and include some new, sample wireframes and mockups. Then, on the porfolio page, I show that I can, and for what I can't, I link to a the related article on the blog.

Since a UX interview and search is mostly about intellect and cognitive ability to carry out the job, most of the time an article or a essage on how you understand the process and responsibilites can be a long way to cover the gaps on things you can't show.

That, or just make new wireframes and mockups of what you're trying to show, and claim it's fair use.

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