This is interesting. In the many portfolios I have seen, rarely have I seen a portfolio that clearly indicates if it was group work or a project done with a team. If fact, it happens so infrequently that I sit up and take notice when a portfolio actually has credits.
In today’s Internet environment the term “don’t take a dump in your own backyard” is becoming more and more relevant as your “backyard” has become a lot bigger than you think.
Here are 3 examples:
1) I’ve noticed in a portfolio some great sketches from designer A. Later, in another designer B’s portfolio, I noticed the same sketches.
2) There was this great project in a digital portfolio that did not credit any other members in the design team that I knew were involved. What’s worst was that there was no information in the area that designer played a part in. That area, which I heard, was actually small compared to the scope of involvement of the other designers.
3) Finally awhile back, I interviewed 2 different designers who worked on the same project, but both did not credit their partners (i.e. each other). They only admitted it was group work when I asked.
With people publishing a lot of their design work online or turning their portfolios into a digital format, giving credit where credit is due is becoming a lot more important, as you will not really know where your work will end up. Imagine your creditability as a designer if such conflicting information falls in the hands of potential employers?
Here are some things to consider and think about:
1) There is no shame in playing a small role in a project. Sure, by all means showcase the entire project, but do highlight that area(s) you were involved in, and paint a picture of your role in the greater scheme of things. You will come across as humble and a great team player.
2) It is pretty easy to tell, based on your number of years of experience, how much you should be capable of doing. So please, when you sell, don’t over sell!
3) Find a small space in your portfolio, preferably at the start of each project, to credit all the other people involved. “Designed with…” or “With additional support by…” is always a good thing as good Karma does go around.
4) Expect probing questions on your participation in a project. I wonder if a list of activities, or perhaps a highlighted numerical percentage of involvement, could be useful in giving an indication on your involvement?
5) However you have to be realistic as you can’t possibility credit everybody. There is no point crediting that tea lady who brought your hot drinks, or that engineer that helped you convert your NURBS into a Parametric Model, or even that designer who sketched their 2 cents worth. Even with design awards, we often only credit people who played a significant role in the project. Basically anyone who’s input had an influence in a project’s final outcome.
6) Finally, it is sometimes difficult in team based design environments to really divide up the design work. It is not always so clear cut. Occasionally, you might have come up with an idea in a concept sketch, but it was re-sketched for a presentation by someone else. Or an idea you were developing was changed to a completely different direction by your design manager. Even I myself once developed a design all the way to production based on a 10min Photoshop rendered sketch. In this case, what would you do? If it helps explain the scope of the project, I think it would be all right to show this and all related work in your portfolio, even if it was not yours. But do clearly state, where your part role and influence took place.
At the end of the day, I supposed this is one of those so called unspoken codes of conduct. Thus most of the time we trust and take what a designer says at face value. However, I’m sure a lot of such activities will slip through the cracks. Whether it may be a result of ignorance or intent, I think the only thing standing in the way is a guilty conscience.
So what about you? Do you credit your teammates in your portfolio? If so how do you do it? Experienced any horror stories? Anyone “claimed” credit for work that was rightfully yours, either partially or wholly? Do have your say and I look forward to reading all your comments.
Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.