Digital Leave-Behind

February 2024

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a leave-behind portfolio. Something tangible. Something that occupies space. A visual reminder of you and your work. This type of thing doesn’t make sense in the digital world. A world where everything seems immediate and fleeting.  As a designer who has spent his entire career in this digital realm— there is something beautiful about this snapshot in time. A representation of your work frozen forever. It’s probably why I write letters to my Grandma, attempting to capture that feeling.

In 2016, I was on the job hunt. During the process I began to think what would help me stand out against other candidates. I was still quite early in my career and didn't have much work to show. This idea of a leave-behind portfolio came back to me. What could that look like in the digital world?


When I applied to Twitter I wanted to do a little more. I was applying to Twitter’s video product called Periscope (RIP). I decided to make a Twitter clone website and instead of tweets it would be messages and videos about me and my work. It was so meta and so fun to make.

Link to website

Narrator: he did not get the job and actually didn’t even get a call back.


Similarly, when I applied to Fitbit I wanted to showcase stats about my life and career using elements from Fitbit’s brand.

Link to website

Narrator: he also did not get the job and no call back.

Now you might be thinking, “Hey Darren, wasn’t that a huge waste of time since none of them called you back?”, which is a completely reasonable thing to think to yourself. And no, I don’t think it was, here’s why:

  • I gained a lot of confidence in myself. Which, again, is a head scratcher given that both companies ignored my application. But follow along with me for a moment. I was relatively new to front-end development and was able to build those two websites. Now, eight years later, I’m still quite proud of those websites. I set a goal to create those leave-behinds and I did it! It built up my confidence to trust the process and the journey regardless of the end result.

  • I learned that simply sending in a little website might not be the best way to get noticed, how it’s packaged as messaged is just as important as the content.

  • I learned that you are not your work. That work represents who you are at that moment in time. Not the opportunity of that work. And now, being on the other side of those interviews, sometimes the type of designer and the type of work you have are not suited for that given role. But if you keep putting that positive energy out there you will find that role, or that role may find you.


Fast forward three years to 2019 and I was back on the job search again. Armed with learnings from last time and new skills, I was ready. For my OpenTable interview I created a leave-behind deck. I focused on why I chose OpenTable. I shared stories and projects that showed why I was food-obsessed. My projects had clear articulation of problems and complete solutions.

Projects that focused on food

Narrator: he got the job.

I don’t think this post is a poster child for getting a job and there are a lot of things I could have done better. I think the point of this post is to find something you’re fascinated with and give it your all. What will you leave behind?