Portfolio Assistance


Good afternoon All,

One of my colleagues brought up an interesting question.

What are you legally allowed to add to your professional portfolio while looking for a new firm?

This is from the perspective of someone with 5 years experience of working in a firm. If you helped on SD/DD renderings or 3d models, can those be shared in a pdf format? What about construction drawings? Site photos from site visits? Unpublished finished projects as images?

I assume anything on the firms website is fine, but wasn't sure on other items.


James F.

Mar 31, 23 5:33 pm

There's quite a bit of discussion on this in ARE materials for Practice Management... I think in the AIA Code of Ethics? Not sure if the law has much of anything to do with portfolio images since you could argue they aren't being sold and are somewhat transformative (fair use). 

This is all off the top of my head, could be wrong.

Mar 31, 23 7:50 pm  · 
1  · 

This question comes up every once in a while. Per AIA Code of Ethics you're allowed to show what you have been working on (drawings, renderings, whatever), as long as it's non-confidential (like government work perhaps) and you're not misleading your potential employer/client. Some of the young professionals are afraid to ask their office in fear of being fired, or even sued (sic!) - like pursuing a litigation over such a small thing is worth the effort. Architects needs to be in office doing work, not in court arguing over some nonsense. And although I didn't research that, I'm pretty sure firing someone over this would probably be a violation of state labor law as well, depending on where you live.

However, while reading an Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice, I found an article where one licensed professional filed a claim against another one to AIA about that - but this was a much more serious matter, where one principal of ~20-30 years left the firm to start their own, and he has showed buildings in his portfolio that he did not worked on. 

My advice is for you is to ask your employer for permission, as it's right thing to do; however, if you're afraid of that, just steal it - whatever. I myself did not ask my boss, but more like notified her - 'hey, I'm going to show this, this and that in my portfolio, thank you'. What is she going to do? Fire me? Good luck replacing a reliable employee because he asked about something he's perfectly and legally entitled to have.

Apr 1, 23 5:03 pm  · 
1  · 

To add onto this, be very VERY clear about your role in the images that you're presenting. If you're showing CD images, be specific about what you did on those drawings. Was it production? PA? Did you do the details? Etc. 

If the images are renders ESPECIALLY, make sure that you list not only yourself, but also credit whoever did the design of the building. 

AND to be safe, if you're showing any technical drawings (like CD snips), blur out any client information, including and especially property addresses. (Granted all of my experience comes from high-end SFR; we don't have NDAs, but our clients usually don't want everyone else knowing where they live).

Re: Site photos: I would ONLY share site photos if those specific photos show something you actually worked on. If you didn't have anything to do with designing that pool that was photographed with the house, don't show the site photo of it. If you did the CD set, but not the design for it, make sure to credit the Architect who did the design work (usually you can just default to something like "Construction Documents by [Your Name], Design by [ABC Architects LLC]".

Apr 2, 23 10:08 am  · 
1  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: