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General Discussion

Guidelines for Self-Initiated Portfolio Projects

I have been reading a lot about the benefits of adding self-initiated projects to your portfolio, especially projects that reflect the work you want to do (rather than the work you've always done). I see a lot of value in this approach, but I'm not really sure how to go about it. Here are a few of my conundrums:

1) If I do an unsolicited redesign for a brand, are there concerns about trademarks? As a developer (who is not talented in design), it be useful to borrow some photographs or graphic design elements to my projects pretty AND functional, but I am super cautious about plagiarizing, and I have so much respect for artists. However, there is a reason I'm doing development and not design, so I don't really relish the idea of doing a bunch of design for fake projects.

2) How do I present the website to clients (besides a picture/link in the portfolio obviously). Do I need to actually set up a domain and host the website just to sit there so people can click over and take a look at it? Or are there programs or apps that will host them for me?

3) How do I do content in a website? If I develop a blog, do I just use lorem ipsom blog posts, write some quick but pointless posts of my own, or use material from somewhere else? Same for, say, a photography portfolio, and website copy in general (which is an artform of its own).

4) Do I need to indicate in any way that the project is "fake"? Like if I did a redesign for a brand I like, I would hate for people looking for that brand to find my website and think it was actually related somehow.

I am guessing that there are some really simple answers to my questions, and if there are industry guidelines for how this type of thing is typically done, I would love to see them.


I am no expert but my views are as follows:

  1. I think that if you state on the page that it is for personal/demonstration purposes then you shouldn't have to worry about copyright infringement as you would not be profiting from there brand or identity.

.2 You could have them as sub domains within your eg adamsackfield.co.uk for portfolio then each moch site could be adamsackfield.co.uk/site1 etc. Or things like asmallorange have a 30 site option very cheap.

  1. You could use lorem for the most part and then for the major things you want to show off add some relevant text.

  2. Same as answer 1.

Hope this helps. As i say its my opinion not hard facts

Thanks so much for your input, Adam! Whether or not you are an "expert," it's helpful to know what other designers/developers on the web are thinking on the subject.

2 Answers

Aaron Walton
Aaron Walton
3,557 Points

People on the Internet take way to many liberties with intellectual property that is not their own. I have personally contacted people and asked them to stop using photographs that they "borrowed" from my site. I have also been contacted by the legal department of a big company and was told to stop using a domain that contained a word that was their trademark. There is always a small chance that you will cross an entity that is more predatory in nature and you could get hit with a lawsuit. It's not worth it.

Aaron, thanks for the reply, and I completely agree with you about people taking liberties with intellectual property. I know that doing mock "redesigns" for brands is a common practice, but I'm trying to figure out how this can be done without trampling on trademarks and copyrights (if it can be done at all).

And I would never, ever find a pretty picture on someone's website and just use it for my own website, fake or not. I have way too much respect for other people's work, and I would hope they would have the same respect for mine.

I'm just curious if there are industry standards on this kind of thing: when it's okay to do a brand redesign (and how) or if it isn't okay and everyone just does it anyway.

I appreciate your time, Aaron. Thank you for weighing in!

In copyright law there is a fair use clause where in certain circumstances you can use things protected under copyright, i don't see any ill effects from using other stuff to demonstrate your DEVELOPMENT skills not DESIGN or CREATIVE IDEAS as long as the original owner is referenced. link

Tom Bedford
Tom Bedford
15,645 Points

Hi Hope

To avoid worrying about the copyright etc you could use something like lorem pixel to generate themed placeholder images for free. Alternatively with a stock image provider like fotolia you can buy licenses for appropriate photos from ~£0.54/image (though on that particular site you have to buy £10 credit to start with). There are several stock photo sites though I've only had experience with fotolia.

Brand redesigns are very common on Dribbble, I don't imagine that would be a problem (though I'm not a lawyer!). You may prefer to invent some brands if you are concerned.

Lorem ipsum is fine for the bulk of the text, I would use actual words for headings and subheadings. If you find it dull there are lots of alternatives.

For presenting the sites I would agree with Adam Sackfield that you could host them on your own site. e,g, example.hopeconnell.com or hopeconnell.com/example


Awesome resources. Thank you so much!