How to transform design work restricted by NDAs or scrapped prematurely

Kai Wong

UX Collective

Art by Midjourney

“It sounds like they’re cutting the whole project.” My project manager said, creating a ripple of fear on the call. It wasn’t my first time facing uncertainty around layoffs, but it never gets easier.

I still had a job later that afternoon. However, I was left with an equally important question that some of you have faced: do I put my scrapped project in my portfolio?

I hadn’t signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for this one, but my portfolio was already a little light on projects due to them. Would my portfolio become even lighter, with years of hidden effort down the drain?

I was able to put that question off that afternoon, but I still wanted to dig around and find out. This is because it’s a pressing question in fields like Healthcare UX, where you often work with sensitive information.

As it turns out, I found my answer through the articles I’ve written and copyright law: it’s okay to talk about it if you transform it.

But to do that, you need to save a copy first.

Make a copy (with permission) to protect yourself in a remote age

What I say now may seem controversial, but it’s necessary in the age of remote work. Get permission early on to use a project for your portfolio and make copies of your work.

When the general practice for most remote jobs is to cut off access to all documents a few minutes after you’re laid off, you do not want to be in a situation where you have to e-mail and beg someone on your former team to send you some screenshots of your work for your portfolio.

I’ve mentored Junior Designers struggling to find their next job when they haven’t saved screenshots, mockups, or prototypes from their internships or first jobs.

Copying company documents for your portfolio may seem like stealing from the company. So, if you’re afraid of this, ask your manager (at the start of the project) for permission to put this work into your portfolio. They likely won’t have a problem with…