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I've had an interest in web design for a long time and am constantly trying to learn something new. I do not have any references in my portfolio, but would like to start freelancing.

Is it bad practice to redesign a website from a local company and use it for my portfolio? Do I infringe any copyright? What if I offer the redesign to the company?

Has someone done this before? If so, share your experiences.

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3 Answers 3

Personally, I don't think this is a very good idea, for a number of reasons.

First, a company has invested time and money into their website, perhaps quite a lot of either or both. Most won't appreciate somebody essentially telling them that their design is "wrong," which is what you would be implying.

Next, by including it in your portfolio, you are automatically implying that you created or worked on the website, even if you give credit otherwise. At best, this may be considered bad taste; at worst, you could be infringing on copyright laws. Think about it this way - when you do become a successful web designer, do you want somebody taking a website you've spent many hours and creative energy on, and claiming it as his/her own?

There is really nothing wrong with using a company's website for inspiration, although you may want to use a number of websites for that. You can see what kinds of things (products and/or services) are found on that kind of website.

What you will want to do is to make something more generic for a portfolio, until you get actual clients that you have designed yourself. Come up with a company name and create a logo, etc.

There are plenty of ideas out there, and room for innovation, that you don't have to steal another site. Creativity is a hallmark of web design.

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If you use a local company's website for your portfolio, you could run into some copyright issues even if you totally redesign the site. The company has full rights to their name, their logo, and even the text on their page. If you use this as your portfolio, you could have some problems.

That said, there's nothing wrong with doing a redesign of their site and then offering it to them. You would want permission to use it for your portfolio and if you want that, offer them the redesign free of charge in return for permission to use the site as a part of your portfolio. I doubt the company would see anything wrong with this. But, again, only use it in your portfolio with the company's permission.

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No, it isn't a bad practice to use another site, as long as you don't try to pretend that you came up with the concept; meaning give credit, and as Melanie said you could run into some issues with the law, just make sure that the law doesn't win. Ask the local company if you can use a redesigned version of their website for something on your portfolio.

A great idea to kick-start your portfolio is to design an innovative website to hold your all of your work. Even in the beginning the customer can see what you're capable of. The website would be a great way for our customer to learn how you work and your specific skill set through a bio page. With the portal open, you can give them a lot more than just a few website designs you've done all in one go.

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What do you mean by "mirror site"? A mirror site usually refers to a site that hosts an exact copy of another site. You might mirror a page of a client site you designed so that you can show it in your portfolio even after the client's site has changed, but that doesn't seem to be what BeatMe is trying to do. –  Lèse majesté Feb 19 '11 at 13:50
    
Since BeatMe made a reference to to the site in the first place, I was assuming that it wouldn't be a huge radical change - else he/she could just change the banner and the text with Lorem Ipsum and call it his/her own work. I was using the term 'mirror' loosely, though I will modify for clarification. Thank you Lese. –  Christopher Feb 19 '11 at 14:02
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If you're including it in your portfolio, then it ought to be your own design. I don't think it's appropriate or professional to include another designer's work with some minor modifications (even if you give credit to the original designer). Afterall, the purpose of a portfolio is to demonstrate your abilities, not someone else's. Now, if you're creating a mock design (e.g. as practice, for fun, or to present the company in hopes of getting them as a client) for a company that isn't actually a client, that would be appropriate IMO. –  Lèse majesté Feb 19 '11 at 14:56
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Think of it this way, if I'm a novice designer, and I take the work of a much better designer and simply tweak it a little and stick it in my portfolio, how is a client to know what part of the design I'm responsible for? You're misrepresenting your abilities to customers. Your portfolio is supposed to give clients an idea of the quality of work they can expect to receive if they hired you. It's not like the original site designer will collaborate with you on projects you get hired for. So it's very misleading. –  Lèse majesté Feb 19 '11 at 15:11
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@Lèse majesté: great comments - you added them while I was crafting almost exactly the same thing as my answer. :) Honest, I didn't steal it - would be kind of hypocritical if I did on this particular topic.... –  Wonko the Sane Feb 19 '11 at 15:18
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