the sky floor

Why the ‘Before and After’ Might Actually be Hurting Your Portfolio

May 25, 2023

Listen up! If you are a designer, web developer, interior decorator, logo creator, or anyone who creates anything visual, this post is for you. 

Stop posting before and afters in your portfolios! 

Why? It turns out that pretty much everything with a visual component is subjective, and you may just be showing your site visitor that they preferred the original version to yours. You might say, “Well, if they liked the before better, I probably don’t want them as a client,” and you are probably, most likely, maybe a little bit right. But they may be a great client too – the crux is this: you aren’t selling how different or better your work is from the “before”; you are selling the outcome

The point of the portfolio is to show you are capable of creating what the client is asking for. At its most basic function, that means if you make websites, you present finished websites; if you design logos, you display finished logos; or if you design and build dream kitchens, you show photos of completed projects. 

Great, but I will miss out on showing how transformative my work and philosophy are!

You have a point. That is why I recommend discussing the challenges presented by the before phase of the work. Write it out. Give the viewer your process and then show the results. In most cases, it isn’t necessary to see the before, especially since design trends change and are subjective. 

One more thing to consider:

Sign Up to Get Our Latest Posts Tuesdays and Thursdays

No Spam, Period. Just the latest posts.

Showcasing the “before” can be borderline disrespectful.

Including ‘before’ images in your portfolio could unintentionally suggest that the client’s original vision or previous design was subpar or inferior. While a client often seeks professional services precisely for improvements and upgrades, presenting the “before” images might inadvertently disrespect their initial efforts or tastes.

Instead, focusing on the “after'” – the work you’ve delivered – respects the client’s original vision by highlighting your enhancements while keeping their initial ideas hidden. It recognizes that their original concept had potential and was a crucial starting point for your work. This approach showcases your ability to collaborate and enhance rather than replace. In other words, it shows you are a positive, forward thinker selling an outcome.

Discussing the process, challenges, and how you worked through them can further respect the client’s original vision. It acknowledges the complexity and potential of the project, demonstrating your problem-solving skills and expertise without visually comparing it to the “before” state.


Of course, use discretion. If you are showing an empty field and then a finished house, you aren’t going to insult anyone, and if someone is buying a home from you, they won’t prefer the empty lot. But consider the value of what you are showing. Always focus on what you provide and produce – often, the before isn’t necessary.

You can show off your talent and skills without downplaying or undervaluing your clients’ input, ideas, and visions. Plus, you avoid potentially showing a “before” that potential clients may prefer over your resulting work.