Quick Question about Portfolios

Hey, I’m starting to do some work for my portfolio and I had a question:

If I wanted to do a rebrand of a real event (say like a ballet, or a musical or something) would that be legal to show in my portfolio? (with indication that it is a fake rebranding of course)

I know theres some legal stuff involved in what you can put in your portfolio such as if you signed a contract with your company that states stuff you create while working for them is considered theirs and not yours. So Im wondering if there is any legal issues with like representing a say a musical and trying to create a complete brand/advertisement/business card for them as a student project.

Cheers and Thanks

For an established professional, it might be a little odd, but for someone starting out on a career, those first jobs are hard to get without something to show. I wouldn’t place the work in an online portfolio, however — especially if aspects of the made-up project for the real company borrowed the intellectual property of that organization.

An employee’s work always legally belongs to the company. A contractor typically retains some rights to the work unless those rights are signed away. Some companies object to work done for them being published online. Others don’t care. There are few situations where work can’t be shown in a physical portfolio at a job interview, however. The one exception I can think of is if a non-disclosure agreement has been signed. In my contracts, just to remove any ambiguity, I typically add a clause saying I retain the rights to use images of the work for self-promotional purposes. I haven’t had many clients object to that.

I don’t think there would be a problem in a physical portfolio. It’s ethically important to honestly represent the situation to those you’re showing your portfolio too, of course. You don’t want to misrepresent the situation. Online, though, like I mentioned, I wouldn’t show it.

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Thanks for the quick reply. Guess Ill have to find another project idea for my online portfolio.

Thanks again!

Edit: Guess another question. If I say made a brand identity project for a popular musical like say Chicago or Cats with free stock photos of like dancers and stuff instead of using an actual company would that be ok?

Im taking that the project itself would be ok… I may just get involved with how a real company is represented online and they may take offense/legal action towards that. So if i did it in context of a fake company It would be fine.

Don’t do branding for big national shows. Those would be huge accounts. If you’re really set on doing a stage show as a portfolio piece, completely mock up a fictional one. Fake show title, fake theater, and backdate it. The issue you’re coming into is that you want to to appear real, when it is not… so just don’t.

I would, but I want to put into practice research and concept development for a real situation. If I just make everything up it can literally just be anything I want it to be.

The project I had in mind was branding for Chicago which is playing at Queen Elizabeth Theater where I live. Since I don’t want to impose on QE theater and the show with my online portfolio I decided just to do a branding for Chicago with a fictional theater group. Which I think would be ok.

Unless you actually are working for a real client, you won’t know much about what goes on behind the scenes anyway. Finding something that’s already been done and reimagining it the way you would have done it doesn’t accurately reflect the dynamics of of the problem and what led up to the final product.

Working with clients can be everything from frustrating to enlightening, but it’s the dynamics of those relationships that usually determine the directions in which the projects proceed. Situations where designers just come up with something without significant client input are rare. It’s almost always more complicated than that and involves varying degrees of partnering and compromising with clients to achieve the final product.

So what you’re proposing as a realistic simulation of a project isn’t really realistic at all since there’s no client working with you and giving you feedback, suggestions, objections and (all too often) tossing counterproductive obstacles in the way of your best work and the best solution to the problem.

I see your point. Would that mean that as a beginner my portfolio would focus mostly on just on creating aesthetically pleasing design(for the most part)?

Do you go to a school that has student productions? Plays, concerts, clubs. They’re always looking for posters, flyers and logos. I got my start working in the student government’s special events office, and working on the student newspaper, literary magazine and yearbook. In my case it didn’t pay anything, but it was a valuable experience listening to ‘clients’, and painful when they would reject pieces. But it’s better to learn those lessons in school than in the commercial world where people will fire you if they don’t like your work.

I think they do, but probably not anymore cause of the you know what.

If you are on the internet the “you know what” isn’t an issue. Contact them. Work remotely. Some of us here have been doing it for a couple months now.
Things like the school newspaper and yearbook don’t stop because of Covid19.
You won’t know until you try.
I’ve seen some pretty novel workarounds to not being able to be in the same room.

I’ve never done so many museum walkarounds and prototype development via Zoom, we’re even working with our remote installers that way. It’s become a major part of our process over the past few months and likely to stay.
There’s a band I know working on a low-latency online solution to not being able to rehearse together. They’ve got the lag down to milliseconds and wondering if they could do a really informal performance with it (no it’s not the band I posted in the music forum.)
I think it would be a really novel way to present a limited-cast play or musical where the medium becomes part of the show.

Don’t say “can’t” cuz of Covid19.

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A portfolio is, unfortunately, always primarily about showing one’s most aesthetically pleasing work. I might get arguments on that, so I’ll explain. Portfolios provide superficial glimpses into what designers are capable of producing. They don’t typically delve deeply into the details of how the work came to be, the thought process that went into it or what obstacles were dealt with and overcome.

When presenting portfolios in job interviews, designers have the opportunity to tell a story or two about the work. When seen online without the benefit of the designers’ narrations, portfolios are little more than a series of images. Viewers spend a few seconds on each, making judgments on the aesthetics and shallow assumptions about anything deeper.

The only way you’ll ever have authentic narratives to tell about your work will be those you obtain through actual experience. They can’t be adequately simulated, as you proposed, through a reimagined campaign redo from someone else’s real-life work. This first-hand experience is why it’s so important for design students to work part-time in internships while still in school; they augment the academic learning with the day-to-day realities of the business of design.

None of this is saying that you can’t be aware of these things when starting out. You should certainly be prepared in a job interview to discuss your thought processes and reasoning behind your student work. The more you can do this in the context of how your work might be applicable to business situations, so much the better.

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I second @Just-B’s thought, but I would also add that if you feel that you really want to go beyond the athestics and have a real story to tell, then go out and do some real work. As a student or recent grad it may be challenging to find paying work, but remember that if you’re working for experience money doesn’t need to change hands.

To build up my work, I volunteered for some small non-profits in exchange for portfolio pieces (and a few references). If there is a community theater, church group, or other production looking for volunteers, consider working. This way you’ll have that designer/client relationship and be able to discuss your process during interviews.

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Awesome guys thanks for these thoughtful answers. I thought I would find work after I graduated but this has motivated me to go look for some internships or community programs before I graduate.

Thanks again!

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