Professional Work in Portfolios

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    Sara Donohoe

    Hey everyone,

    I graduated a couple of years ago and I’d like to update my portfolio with some examples of professional work. Like many other entry-level persons, I’m not typically the one doing most of the final site design work. I do, however, design most of the landscape and I typically color/render some drawings for my own visual purposes (they are not used for presentation). I also have plenty of sketches and diagrams that I use for my own thought processes.

    My biggest issue: All this work is technically the company’s property and I don’t want to get into any legal issues. How do I go about showing my ideas without actually putting the final work into my portfolio? I don’t want to sneak around, but asking for permission could be a touchy subject…

    Thanks for the help!


    The few licensure laws that I’ve read typically have language stating you have a right to copies of drawings, plans, etc. when you leave a company to use in your portfolio.  You have to give them credit when presenting the plan or photo, e.g. developed the illustrative plan fot this project while with xx-yy landscape architects.  So do they monitor things so closely there that you wouldn’t be able to run of a print now and then?  I admire your boldness to even THINK about leaving an entry-level job in this economy!

    Tosh K

    Short answer is ask before you use anything personally.  If it’s a drawing that’s been made public (via the web or in print) then you should be fine as long as you cite your source.  If it’s internal then get permission.  Confidentiality is very important, especially in this economic climate, you need to ensure that whatever you may show won’t jeopardize a client’s privacy or the firm’s relationship with a client.  Any future employer would be wary of anyone showing work without permission from their employers (it may come up during a phone call by the former calling the latter to talk about “so-and-so’s work on project x”).  In theory everything that happens within the office stays in the office, it’s best to keep those professional standards.  Keeping an updated portfolio is a good thing and I would hope your employer would be happy to let you keep some of your current work. 

    As for showing final work, it’s ok if the entire thing was not your own, you just have to make it clear what part you were involved in (eg “part of project team in charge of site landscape plan, rendering by others”)

    Sara Donohoe

    Thanks for the advice! Your answers clarify things a bit.

    What about conceptual plans that have not come to fruition? Say you have concepts 1-10 which have renderings x, y, and z. Concept 11 was the design that went to CDs and was approved. Are the concepts 1-10 considered “in house” and not allowed to be presented?

    Jordan Lockman

    Those I would make sure to ask before I used. It is probably okay if the project got installed in some form, but there may still be some proprietary items that the company or client would like to keep confidential.

    Sara Donohoe

    Thanks, Jordan. That makes the most sense.

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