Graphic designer & art director

Graphic designer & art director

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Dianna

Another hard beginner question. Please help... Who is the owner of the work that graphic designers create? The client or the designer? Do you have to give the original file to the client?

Creative + Entrepreneur

  • Comment (119)
  • June 26, 2012
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  • Brian W.

    Brian

    Brian W.

    Honorary Graphic Designer at Citizens Commission on Human Rights

    As far as I know, the client is paying for the product and not the means of producing it. The terms and conditions of the printer's where I have been working make clear that all artwork, films, plates, etc. used in the production of a finished job remained the exclusive property of the printer whereas the copyright of custom design work would transfer to the client. You cannot legitimately stop a client from going elsewhere for future work and using the same house styles, but he is not entitled to take away the materials used on the shop floor. This was modelled on the suggested terms of the British Printing Industries Federation, and I believe is normal industry practice, at least in the UK. If you are working as an employee of a studio, your employer would expect ownership of your work and assign it as he determined fit.

  • Dianna S.

    Dianna

    Dianna S.

    Creative + Entrepreneur

    It makes more sense when printing but I'm referring to an illustrator file. As the graphic designer I am creating the graphics and everything within it but its there idea so its a collaboration for the end result. Do I own it or do they since they are paying me? Is it shared ownership?

    This matters to me because I don't know if graphic designers hold on to the original file so the client doesn't go somewhere else to reproduce other collateral that was not agreed to when creating the graphic. If that is the case then wouldn't it be right to charge more for the original file?

    Thank you for your response Brian

  • Michele

    Michele G.

    Graphic / Digital Media Artist, Food Writer at West Seattle Thriftway

    Usually it will be the client who owns the work you do for them, unless, you have a contract that states otherwise or if you are licensing the work to the client. Look up "work for hire" Wikipedia has a good general description.

    Personally, I always keep my native/original files so they can be used in my portfolio. I have only came across one client who didn't want me to keepmy original files, but it was kind of like a messy breakup. Good luck!

  • Brian W.

    Brian

    Brian W.

    Honorary Graphic Designer at Citizens Commission on Human Rights

    I think there is no significant difference between the physical tools and materials used to create print work and the digital assets used by the designer. Your Photoshop, InDesign, etc. files are "materials" or "tools" used in the process of designing and are hardly different from, say, the plates, jigs and templates used by any manufacturer of physical goods. This must be understood or negotiated by the client as part of your terms of service. A printer reserves the right to recycle used plates. He may have spoiled materials which cannot be charged for. It's so much easier to give a client duplicates of digital assets, but that devalues your service as a professional and may degrade standards, even though clients may well use blackmail to get what they want. This is a principle which should be established by the design profession and maintained as industry practice. Giving in isn't necessarily the easiest way to success.

  • Dianna S.

    Dianna

    Dianna S.

    Creative + Entrepreneur

    @Michele that was helpful thank you. I just did the wikipedia look up.

    @Brian, thank you for the clarification. Helps me a lot. You are right about keeping professionalism.

  • Novadic C.

    Novadic

    Novadic C.

    The Founder of The Novadic Concept

    When it comes to the projects that I have create for my clients. It all depends on which files you are referring to. The final product, whether a website or a graphic, belongs to the client because this is what they paid for. The master file however, the actual work performed such as Photoshop files or any coding, belongs to the designer and I have this stated in a statement within my contract. It states the all master files are the property of Novadic Concept for use in future projects between the client and the company. (This also helps to create an opportunity for repeat business.) The contract also states that these files are retained as a form of copyright protection, both for the client and for Novadic Concept.

  • Mark D.

    Mark

    Mark D.

    Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer at TangoSquared

    I dislike the complexity of contracts and always try and simplify or remove items that are really unnecessary. I always keep the original digital files for all client work so that I can help the client in the future and use it for my own portfolio. I never mention this in the contract because for 98% of my clients this is a non-issue.

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