Graphic Design Ethics

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by graphicsward, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. graphicsward macrumors member

    graphicsward

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2009
    #1
    I'm curious to see what more people think. I just resigned from the design firm i've been working with to start freelancing (Graphic Design & Photography). Where is the line between your work and work you've done with a company?

    I'm putting up my website now and since 95% of the stuff i've done over the past few years was done with the firm, (i.e.. the latest and best stuff) I wish I could put it online in my portfolio.

    I'm not putting anything on my freelance website that I did with them. I'm doing a one page splash portfolio to give a brief description and idea of my work... But I was wondering about linking to an archives photobucket page with all the best things i've done calling it my personal portfolio. Anyone have any thoughts? I didn't sign any contracts saying I can't but I'm ethical and don't want to ruin relations with influential contacts. That said it's so hard to leave out your best work when you need it most.
     
  2. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    #2
    I find it hard to believe there was no contractual obligation in your last job, I haven't had a single job which does have a signed contract.

    If there was/is it would likely have had something stating that all work produced for company x remains property of company x, irrelevant of you doing the design work, meaning you can't use it.
     
  3. usclaneyj macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 1, 2005
    #3
    Use it for what? If I'm using it to showcase my skill-set, I don't see the problem with putting it in a portfolio.

    Wouldn't you bring samples of your best and most recent work with you if you were applying for a new job?
     
  4. UTclassof89 macrumors 6502

    UTclassof89

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2008
    #4
    if you signed no NDA, and the work doesn't show any confidential or proprietary information, you'll have no problems.

    I would clearly indicate that the work was done while you worked for XYZ Corp, so no one thinks you are implying XYZ Corp's clients were actually your clients.
     
  5. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2004
    Location:
    California
    #5
    I have a contract with all of my employee's about NDA and IP assignment. Did you sign something like this?

    They paid you, under their conditions, using their equipment, programs, directorship, to create it. Therefore it belongs to them. If I caught wind of one of my employees putting MY clients online as if it was THEIR business, I'd be pretty angry. Makes for a sticky situation if the client ever finds this online portfolio.
     
  6. graphicsward thread starter macrumors member

    graphicsward

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2009
    #6
    Using the samples for anything other than showing the work I've done is out of the question. I will not do that.

    I don't mind using it in my printed portfolio but the online portfolio is where it gets sketchy. Especially when i'm using it to get new clients.

    I like the idea of clearly labeling everything that was done with the firm, thats probably the route i'll go, with the link from the main site to my "personal portfolio".
     
  7. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #7
    I don't see what the problem is if you present examples of your skill set in your portfolio; As long as you're not saying or implying they were your clients you should be okay.. unless, of course, you signed an NDA.

    I've seen several well-respected designers use their previous design work in their personal portfolio, and simply explain the work was done while you were employed at another design house.
     
  8. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Location:
    Slovenia, EU
  9. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2004
    Location:
    California
    #9
    Non disclosure agreement and Intellectual Property.
     
  10. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Location:
    Slovenia, EU
  11. decksnap macrumors 68040

    decksnap

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2003
    #11
    In most cases this would be fine. The only time I have trouble is when someone puts something in their portfolio that they really weren't the lead on - maybe they did the production work but not the concept or design... that would be not cool. Most employers understand the business and understand that a designer's portfolio is essentially their resume.
     
  12. dawindmg08 macrumors member

    dawindmg08

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #12
    For your web page, I think it's fine as long as you clearly note which pieces were done under the former employer. That way it doesn't like look like you've taken full credit for the work (they weren't your clients after all).

    I think it's completely fair to do this sort of thing, especially with graphic design. You're not claiming ownership of the work you did (it clearly belongs to your previous employer) but you did do the work and should be allowed to take credit for it. You have to be allowed to back up your resume by showing the work you've been doing all these years, right? The only exception would be if you had signed an NDA and you weren't allowed to show it to anyone.

    Eventually your new freelance work will replace the old pieces and it won't be an issue. I did the same thing when I got my freelance career going, and now those old annual reports and brochures are gathering dust in the back of the closet...
     
  13. Kwill macrumors 68000

    Kwill

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2003
    #13
    Same Page

    If you plan on striking out on your own, it would be good to familiarize yourself with:
    Graphic Artists Guild Handbook : Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, 10 Edition. (Amazon)

    Since 1973 it has become the single-most authoritative resource on industry ethics. One of the things you'll discover is that there is a difference between work-for-hire and unlimited copyrights. With the former, it is as though your hand was attached the employer's wrist during creation. With the later, you are the creator, issuing unlimited reproduction rights to an entity or entities. As the creator, you retain the right to publish it yourself. In the absence of a contract, there are certain defaults. But I am not going to summarize the entire book for you.

    Anecdotal: After freelancing for many years, I was asked to work on projects in-house with a local design firm having some rather prominent clientele. First day I cut my teeth on software proficiency testing assignments. The next day I developed a promising design for a popular food product and at the end of day was handed a 30+ page contract to sign.

    I took the contract home to read. It included the typical work-for-hire clause you might expect from employment and atypical complete transfer of copyright for any creative work done on/off their premises in the past or in the future (outside of what was specifically declared). It even went so far as to say that they had rights to my creative thoughts in perpetuity! The contract stated that I could not copy or present any of the work produced for them (or by extension based on the language, anyone) without their permission. Extrapolate 30+ pages of similar restrictions. Needless to say, I did not sign and did not return a third day. A signature would have meant they essentially owned my business.

    What I was offered, to some extent, may have been appropriate as an employee. (They were attempting to covertly hire me - asking if I could work weekends training others - w/o benefits, etc.) Even in the absence of such an exhaustive contract, laws recognize that the employee relationship is work for hire, which boils down to this before you publish...

    ask.

    Better still, ask for permission in writing. The company you worked for owns the work you produced as an employee. The copyright owner can grant you permission to use it and stipulate restrictions on how it is credited. Give them the courtesy of exercising their right and they will likely respond graciously (unless you left on bad terms).
     
  14. DesignerOnMac macrumors 6502a

    DesignerOnMac

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2007
    #14
    ALL the above is good info for you. It has always been a common practice in the deign business that when you world for a design studio, or advertising agency, you do not own any designs or finished ideas or artwork...they do.
    In recent years, they now hand you 30+ pages to read and agree to to protect themselves and the clients you worked for, since some of the work might or is copyrighted.

    I was a member of the Graphics Guild for 25 years and it is a great organization. I would recommend you buy their book, membership is optional but there are advantages to being a member.
     
  15. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #15
    generally I think you're handling this correctly, but it may be better to tell interested parties to contact you for your portfolio's web address as opposed to directly linking to it. That way you have a true separation between your personal portfolio and your web page advertising your business.
     
  16. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816

    ChicoWeb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2004
    Location:
    California
    #16
    I don't think a printed portfolio with your items in there would be much harm. Having them online they will be indexed by google which could potentially be bad. When I first started, I made all my items, images and didn't include image names of relevance, and had robots.txt w/ nofollow. I also had permission if I did all of these things. One of their clients, DID, however find out.
     
  17. jerryrock macrumors 6502

    jerryrock

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NY
    #17
    This issue is about Copyright. As an employee of a design firm, you do not own the Copyright to any of your work product. It belongs to the firm and using it without their permission violates their rights.

    I always stipulate to allow a representation of my work product in my portfolio.
     
  18. graphicsward thread starter macrumors member

    graphicsward

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2009
    #18
    Thanks for all the info everyone

    On my freelance site I left that work off but did link to a "personal portfolio" so potential parties can see more including the work done with the agency (stipulating that some of the stuff was done for them while employed by them).

    I did decide to leave a few things out for fear of kickback, but it's a good compromise. The website is up and running just getting everything for it's official launch next week. The site itself is meant to be a quick bio and splash page so things will rotate in and out as it's produced.

    Also, thanks for the link to the book, that should be in the mail soon and to me in a few weeks.

    cheers,
    michael
    graphicsward.com
     

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