I have a lot of business cards and marketing material (flyers, brochures etc) that have actual client info on the designs. Name, position, email, business phone number, etc.

I'd like to add all my business card designs to a public portfolio, is this ok to leave the info? Or should I blur out them out, and if then, where do you draw the line on what should be blurred?

  • 8
    Why don't you ask the client? :)
    – Vincent
    Jul 8 '19 at 10:07
  • A lot of these designs are older and stocked up over the years. A few recent ones I could ask. I do ask up front in general that after project completion if designs can be used in a portfolio, but no specific details. Just wondering if there's a basic guidepost on this when it comes to showing personal info.
    – Whitesky
    Jul 8 '19 at 10:29
  • 4
    Why can't you ask the older ones? That might be a great opportunity to get back in touch and maybe see if they have new work for you.
    – Vincent
    Jul 8 '19 at 10:31
  • 8
    In my opinion blurring out such data may detract from the look of your portfolio. Another option to consider is removing personal data by replacing with made up names, telephone numbers, and email addresses, etc. Of course that's assuming you have access to the original files.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 8 '19 at 10:53
  • 2
    As a side note, I include "I retain the right to talk about and display work in my portfolio" as part of my standard letter of engagement. Obviously it doesn't mean you shouldn't be courteous, but it can't hurt, and will cover you in case you can't get back in touch with the client for whatever reason.
    – Beejamin
    Jul 9 '19 at 2:34

Dummy it up!

I would not "blur" anything. Blurring doesn't allow anyone to view the typeface you chose or it's actual size very well.

Just replace any actual personal information with made up names and numbers.

There's no need to share the information of others in a portfolio. This is especially true if the items will be viewed online.

I've done business cards for Disney characters, South Park characters, my favorite band and its members, movie casts, all using fake numbers and email addresses. Generally, since there's a logo, it's okay to use the actual URL for the company (it's advertising) if a URL appears on the card. For email addresses, I change them all to the same address like fakeaddress@thiscompany.com. Phone numbers typically use the 555 exchange like in films, since it's a non-working exchange, then just 1234 or some random combination.

Interesting note, is that this can also be used to share a bit more about you and your likes... if the person viewing the items is also familiar with the names, that can spark a conversation.

The actual contact information for a person is irrelevant when looking at business card designs. What is paramount is the type choices, size, placement, etc. That can all suffer if you "blur" the type.

  • 16
    If you choose not to use a real domain name for URL and/or email, example.com and example.org are officially designated/reserved for demonstration purposes: iana.org/domains/reserved
    – Tim Medora
    Jul 8 '19 at 19:22
  • 1
    @TimMedora interesting I didn't know that
    – Whitesky
    Jul 8 '19 at 19:50
  • 4
    More broadly, if you want to use dummy text, but don't want to waste brain power coming up with some fake text with grammar, etc. and that isn't "asdojk wi jaid alkjdaoi" which is obvious gibberish, there's always Lorem Ipsum. And if you don't want to use real names, you can always use folks from literature, etc. ...
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 8 '19 at 20:03
  • 3
    @BruceWayne Let's add that there are also English variants of Lipsum. Commonly used are scriptures of Shakespeare or Kant, but generators also exist.
    – yo'
    Jul 9 '19 at 9:56
  • 1
    555 is specifically a demonstration phone number in the North American Numbering Plan (+1). Outside that area, you should look up your own fake/demonstration numbers. Most countries will have some, which will fit the local patterns.
    – TRiG
    Jul 9 '19 at 10:58

Ask the client.

There is no guideline, except for applicable privacy laws in your local jurisdiction that might prevent you from publishing personal data. I'm not a lawyer so I cannot advise you on that part.

Personally, I would always ask the client themselves. It's a sign that you are proud of the work you did for them, wanting to show it off. It also tells them that you care about their personal data. If they want you to blur, send a concept of the blurred version to them before actually publishing.

In any case, asking them is a great opportunity to get back in touch with them. You can even check whether they are happy with the work still, or if they even might want to offer you more work. Any excuse to contact an old client is a good one.

If they say no, then that's that. If you really want to display the design, you could always recreate the design with a fictional name ('Jane Doe of Acme Anvils') and fictional numbers and addresses.

You might want to consider adding to your Terms and Conditions that you keep rights to display the work. This still doesn't allow you to publish personal data left and right, but it will give you something to fall back on when a client opposes the idea because the design 'is now ours, isn't it?'.

  • That's a good point that privacy laws could come into play,feels like a gray area to mess with and hence the concern. I'll be going through source files and making new dummy copies of all older work, a big chore but lesson learned
    – Whitesky
    Jul 8 '19 at 19:54
  • While it's definitely worth checking on, the fact that these are marketing materials makes it highly unlikely that they'd be considered confidential information.
    – Beejamin
    Jul 9 '19 at 2:37
  • 2
    @Beejamin Maybe not for business cards, but possibly for wedding invitations or birth announcements.
    – Vincent
    Jul 9 '19 at 8:01

Just because information is on a business card, does not mean that information is public domain - as the provider you have no right to decide what is private. Taking an extreme example; would you add a nicely designed medical report to your portfolio ;)?

Some people (Perhaps at C-Level) only give business cards to people who they would like calls from, I for one pretend I have no business card to avoid being impolite, its better than an email I just know I do not want. If I give someone my business card it has my direct line and an email I do not just hand out to everyone.

Equally, depending on how you add text to the portfolio, it could be possibly that a search for someone, then has a link to their direct contact details and again, in some roles this is not what you want. Think of the spam the CEO would get from job candidates if his personal or mailbox was a google search result.

Also; if you needed to ask, chances are you already knew it was a bad idea.

Using Lorem Ipsum (or similar) however as mentioned above is more than suitable to show off your font choices without compromising anyones data.

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