Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

Design Contract Lifesavers

Design Contract Lifesavers

If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you will remember that we did a whole episode covering all the basics of graphic and web design client contracts. But over the past few years, plenty of situations have come up with our own clients that have prompted us to add extra clauses to our contracts. We had to learn the hard way why we needed them, but you can just take it from us!

We cover all kinds of important life-saving clauses such as why its important to have a single point of contact, and how to make sure your clients have their web content ready by the time you’re ready to launch their site.

As always, we take on two new listener questions about how to sell a pre-designed logo to an unwitting client, and how to explain your true worth to a client who may be on the fence.

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(6) responses


March 9, 2014

Thank you for this episode! I’ve been looking for something like the Warranty Clause forever! It is a life saver!!!! I’ve been enjoying your podcast for a couple of years now. Excellent!


Brooke Miller

March 12, 2014

Thank you so much for the contract clauses! I am a designer just finishing my degree this year, and this is definitely not something they teach you in school. Just started listening to the show yesterday and I love it! Thank you!



March 21, 2014

I am listening to one of the last comments by Sam about the LOGO CONCEPTS and the ownership of the unused concepts.

I completely disagree with his statement “You’ve done the work and you should be able to use it later for other clients.” This entire discussion points to a contract clause that is intended to protect you the designer so that you do not have to work on concepts again.

Where I disagree is that, inherently, you the designer DO NOT own the work. In my view as the client, I own ALL work. I am paying you for work-for-hire. As such, all creative that is generated is mine. Color palette, concepts, and finished art in whatever file format specified. The client should be able to take any work that emerges and EITHER use it with you for further development (for this project or a new project) or to a different designer.

Using your logic, if you still own it then you could take the concept on future work for the client and charge them again for that same work.

Now you can certainly specify in the contract that “a maximum of n number of concepts will be produced, an x number of revisions or treatments will be allowed on a chosen concept… [and so on]” You are forgetting that the client is also working too. They are putting in the time to develop the conceptual language, feedback, and honing for you to help put into visual form.

In the many organizations that I have been involved in, designers have had a variety of methods to protect themselves. For example,
— client owns copyright to the FINAL deliverable artwork and will be in the following formats: HTML, non-obfuscated Javascript code clearly code-commented, JPEG (quality = 12), PNG (24bit), or PSD (all layers intact) or EPS or AI (all layers intact)…

— client owns copyright to all original artwork developed for the purposes of the FINAL deliverable but will receive EPS only for final approved artwork…

Any way that it is defined, if more limitations are placed on you the designer then it should result in a higher project or per hour fee as compensation.


    Wes McDowell

    March 27, 2014

    Damien, I think the key distinction here is work for hire, vs. a standard contract. In work for hire situations, yes, you own all concepts, and all work completed, just as if it were your own employee doing the work. But in the vase of hiring a designer as a vendor, you really only have the copyright to the finished product, not unused concepts.



September 3, 2014

I enjoy listening to you guys on the way to work.
Have you ever used or heard of Docracy? Here is their description: Docracy is the web’s only open collection of legal contracts and the best way to negotiate and sign documents online.

Would you say this is a good way to start with contracts?


    Wes McDowell

    September 5, 2014

    Hey Goran, never heard of it before, but it sounds like a good place to start! Its always a good idea to have a lawyer look over your contracts, etc before using them tho.


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