Project in portfolio - when can a graphic designer use his work?


There is no unequivocal answer to the question whether a graphic designer has the right to use his project in a portfolio. It all depends on who he created the project for, what contract he signed, what was included in it or even on what basis he was employed. The problem of using their projects in the portfolio is not only experienced by graphic designers, but also programmers, photographers, designers and other creators.

Employment contract and your project in the portfolio

If the creator of the work wants to use his project in the portfolio, and the work has been performed as part of his full-time duties, most likely he will not be able to use the created project in the portfolio. It is presumed that in the case of employment contracts, proprietary copyrights are transferred to the employer upon submission of the project.

However, it is possible to regulate this issue differently. The content of the contract may include a clause that will allow the use of works created by the employee. This consent will be valid only in the case of official orders, because if the graphic designer is employed under an employment contract and performs works commissioned by external companies, it is this company that must express a separate consent allowing the graphic designer to use his design in the portfolio.

Art. 12 of the Act on Copyright and Related Rights

1. Unless the law or the employment contract provide otherwise, the employer whose employee created the work as a result of the performance of duties under the employment relationship acquires, upon the acceptance of the work, proprietary copyrights within the limits resulting from the purpose of the employment contract and the unanimous intention of the parties.


Acquisition by the employer pursuant to Art. 12 of the copyright law does not deprive the author of the possibility of disposing of and using the work in the scope not covered by the employment contract (its purpose) and the consent of the parties.

Copyright rights are divided into:

  • property rights - which are transferable,

  • personal - which are inalienable.


Property rights guarantee the creator the possibility of transferring rights and receiving material benefits for this reason. It is the creator who decides on the first transfer of rights.

Personal rights are inseparable from the author's rights and protect his intellectual output. Takowy is associated with the right to:

  • designation of the author of the work,

  • the inviolability of the content and form of the work and the reliability of its use,

  • decide on the first release of the work to the public,

  • supervision over the way the work is used.

Therefore, there would be a presumption that a graphic designer can always use the work he created (project in the portfolio), but it is not entirely obvious.

Civil law contract and your project in the portfolio

With a specific task contract or mandate contract, there is no presumption that the proprietary copyrights are transferred to the client. Theoretically, a graphic designer can use his project in a portfolio. However, practice shows that often when concluding contracts, be it an order or a specific work, a clause is included that limits the author's ability to dispose of the work created.

Therefore, when signing the contract, it is worth fighting for a provision that will allow you to use the created works in the portfolio.

Sample clause:

The Ordering Party grants the Graphic Designer permission to use the created Projects to promote the services provided by Graphics, in particular to present the Projects in the Graphics portfolio and present the Projects to Graphics customers.

If such a clause is included in the contract, the customer should be informed about it. The contracts are not always carefully examined and the client does not have the opportunity to seek professional help from lawyers.

This type of provision is allowed and will be binding, but you have to remember that "having the right" is not everything. The client may have a valid reason for the project not to end up in the portfolio. It can be, for example, a project for a car model that has not been patented yet, or a graphic design for a competition. The motivation is not important, and the interests of the client, which must be taken care of.

Your project in the portfolio and B2B cooperation

If a graphic designer wants to include a work created in cooperation with other people in the portfolio, he must have their consent for publication. This consent may take the form of a simple declaration contained in the contract or as a separate document, signed before the use of the given project.

Therefore, a form of cooperation is not as important as "healthy" relationships with those who commission the performance. If they agree to include a mention of the project in the portfolio, the graphic designer will be able to brag about his work while offering his skills in the future.