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NDA doesn't let me have a portfolio

Deal with disclosure restrictions in your UX/UI Designer portfolio

NDA doesn't let me have a portfolio


For designers working in large companies and corporations, there is a very big challenge in being able to build portfolio cases for a simple reason: Signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement contract. in free translation). How is it possible, in these cases, to build a portfolio? Let's find ways to make this situation favorable for your professional presentation and career, without harming Project Owners.



It is very common for UX/UI Designers to take ownership of the projects they have worked on, albeit naively. In its essence, it's not wrong: In fact, there is the intellectual, creative and physical effort put into the project, which has its merit of recognition for all the participants. But when it comes to the business environment, it is necessary to be aware that this universe is much bigger than us, pieces in all the synchrony of the gears. We are conditioned to perceive only our little world, within the Design Team; But companies are made up of different departments and people who have their own goals, projects and deliverables, just like you. One of these departments is the Legal Department, which aims to ensure the company's brand and integrity in the market, protecting it from any and all threats that could harm it.


What is it

In this thinking, the NDA is an agreement between a company and a professional who acts under its supervision that no internal information regarding its products and services (such as methodologies, innovation, technology, design, research, strategies, customers and more) ) may be disclosed by the contracted party (ie you). Note that, when mentioning the applications above, we are talking about practically all sectors of the company. The NDA can be a single and specific document, or a clause present in your Service Agreement, regardless of the contracting format (CLT, Contractor, etc.)


The Root: what you did is not yours, neither for you

As we mentioned in the article Why you need to do Homework, all yours work is not for you. It was made for the project you worked on, for the company that believed in you, with people who got results by your side, and finally, for the user who will appreciate that product. Therefore, it is understood that the company, when hiring you, is buying your skills for the development of products that belong to it. At this point, the work of the Legal Sector enters: Find and intervene, when necessary, in any and all actions that involve the leakage of your data without authorization. You can already see that we are talking about points of extreme seriousness, which can bring catastrophic consequences for both parties. It's really no joke.


Consequences of breaking the NDA

As mentioned in the article Improve your Digital Presence, the projects in which you worked contain information that can pose huge problems for the company that owns it. The big mistake is that you make the sensitive information of the company in question public — By publishing to your portfolio, you are doing just that. I list consequences for the parties below:


For Businesses — Advantages to Competitors

The information used in projects is based on company resources, whether it is the result of research, customer information or innovation ideas for new features. Since the biggest companies have competitors as good and big as they are, such information can open a corporate secret, causing the competition to base (or even reproduce) this data for their own advantage in creating or improving their products. In this case, the entire investment made by the injured company is at risk, and the possibility of being ahead or differentiating itself from the competition falls to the ground.


For you — Your job, money, your reputation

Remembering that we said that you are part of a huge cog, the company's attitude towards your mistake will be relentless. This is nothing personal: She would take this action with anyone who violates the terms of the NDA. The direct consequence can vary depending on the size or culture of the company: Some layoffs summarily, others impose a cash fine, others trigger connections that can doom their reputation and employability for a long period of time. Therefore, it is extremely important that you pay attention to the contract and its clauses before signing it, analyzing and understanding its requirements coldly. We know that, at the time of hiring, the euphoria and desire to get started are so overwhelming that we can devalue that point by acting out of emotion.


How to resolve this situation

To exemplify the points mentioned: Once, a company set up a team of 6 professionals for total dedication to a project for a corporation in the financial sector. Since its inception, UX/UI Designers have gone deep into research, prototypes, testing and visual design: the standard path to a successful project. In a short time the product was already taking shape, having its first canvases drawn. It turns out that one of the team members, albeit naively, placed canvases he had created in his portfolio. In less than 24 hours, the corporation's legal department (which has teams that monitor any irregularities related to the brand 24 hours a day) contacted the company questioning the origin of such screens, demanding explanations and an immediate attitude to the situation. The contracted company barely knew what had happened. Result: The professional had to be immediately disconnected from the project, and the company almost lost its contract with the corporation. How to avoid such a fact?


A. Ask for permission

You know the phrase: "The no you already have, it doesn't hurt to ask". Ideally, you should be aware of your legal rights and duties in a contract you sign. With this, try to open a dialogue with your leadership, explaining your motivation for the dissemination of the work so that they establish together a way that does not harm either party. Transparency is always well received and respected — but if the answer is no, don't insist.


B. Rewrite confidential information

When creating your case you can change the project data, using generic names and fictitious numbers (as long as this fact is explained, so that your project doesn't look fake). Another way would be to drive the writing of the case to what you specifically did, not to mention the general data of everyone else involved. In addition, you can also change colors, company logo and images, making use of more generic features. Finally, you can simply cover sensitive information, showing only the essentials for understanding the project.


C. Password protect your cases

In many cases, we see UX/UI Designers protect their entire portfolio or certain cases with a password. This is an extremely coherent maneuver, which even generates more interest from the evaluator — It shows that you take this issue seriously, showing your mature and professional posture. Perfectly understandable. In these cases, you can show screens during a call, or in an unfilmed live interview. Even so, it is recommended that you also edit or protect the project data.


D. Create your own projects

A point that is always important to emphasize: We recruiters are not after pretty screens, but their rationale, processes and methodologies to achieve results. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable that you, on your own initiative, create your own projects, after all in essence you are a problem solver. But don't work for free: Instead of agreeing to work on a paid project, create your own demand. I'm sure you've identified dozens of issues outside of your work environment, right? Choose one of them, dig deep and create a product that is the answer to it. We'll love to see this case, you can be sure.



If your leadership imposes NDA on you, first of all, coolly analyze (use reason, leaving emotion aside for now) the terms of the contract. There are agreements that are even unfair to employees. If you choose to subscribe, submit and do not go back, working under the terms posted. Your professional ethics are tested at these times, and years of career and reputation building can be put at risk if the right decisions are not made.

About Mao Barros

Over 15 years in the Design field, working on visual projects such as graphic, illustration and Brands. For the last 10 years I've been working in digital projects as UI Designer, understanding UX and buildings processes using no-code tools to have a good deliverable to them.

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