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  • Commission or Profit Sharing from a Company?

    Hello All, So I work as the primary Graphic Designer for a few different apparel companies. One of which is starting gain traction in the industry quite a bit. I've made about a few hundred dollars thus far with this client of mine, whom has gained recognition from bigger brands and some celebrities recently due to bringing me on board as I've essentially built their whole brand visually from the ground up. About 90% of their merch features my original artwork and concepts.

    My question is: Is it unheard of for a designer to demand via a contract a percentage of that companies earnings based on their art contributions to said company?

    It bothers me that the designer always gets the "Shit end of the stick", so to speak. We tell the "visual stories" of these companies, brands etc. and where is our recognition, where is our thousands if not millions of dollars?

    I like to think of the McDonald's corporation as a great example. How many people really know who designed the McDonald's logo by name? It is NOT widely known at all. He/she has received no recognition for this and if they are still alive today, are they getting any form of compensation from this billon dollar corporation?

  • #2
    You have an odd view as to how design works. A design that works isn't about the person who created it. It's about the company brand and the company making money. And it's about having a solid contract to be paid what you think your work is worth. If the designer of the McDonalds logo didn't charge enough, oh well... (if you look up McD's logo history, you might find the president of the company actually sketched those golden arches himself...)

    What does your current contract say about who owns the art?
    You should already be under contract of some kind. Do you know how to do licensing for artwork based on number of impressions? Or are you selling your art as work for hire on a per piece or per hour basis? Or are you selling the art with a full copyright release for a proper fee? Or are you getting a measly royalty per piece sold?
    That part is all on you.
    You can demand anything you want. The answer might be yes or it might be no. Perhaps ''demand'' isn't the proper word. ''Negotiate'' might be a better one.
    What if they tell you they will pay you more but you have to design for them exclusively?
    Have a backup plan.

    No one can predict the future. When doing art, do not undersell your time and energy on the off chance that you will get fame and glory out of it. The name of a designer only matters to another designer who studies design history. The general public for whom the brand was developed couldn't name the designer on a good day. Quite honestly the only famous designer I can name by name is Milton Glaser. I'd be hard pressed to list more than 3 or 4 of the companies he did work for. Sad? Not really. It doesn't pertain to anything I do on a daily basis.

    If you have a proven track record you get to charge more. If someone doesn't want to pay it, move on.
    Last edited by PrintDriver; 12-11-2016, 10:06 PM.

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    • #3
      In your other thread you spoke of designing clothing. In this one you're talking about marketing materials and logos. When it comes to branding and logos, we have had a handful of threads about this question - who owns the work? Is the designer creating a product that is purchased by the client, and therefore owned completely by the client, or is the designer selling usage rights to the client, and retains some sort of ownership of their work? We've heard strong arguments for both sides.

      In my opinion, if you are hired as a graphic designer (not a designer of graphics, there's a difference), you are providing a product to a client. The client pays for that product, and they own it free and clear. The designer doesn't get credit, royalties, shares, percentages or anything.

      Jim Schindler designed the golden arches in 1962 when McDonald's wanted a more corporate logo.
      Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.

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      • #4
        There are lots of people who contribute to or detract from a company's success.

        Should the person who came up with the name "Big Mac" get a royalty on every hamburger that's sold? Should the person who came up with the idea for a drive-up window get a cut from every automobile who drives through? What about the people who came up with the idea for Happy Meals? Should they get something for every Happy Meal that's sold? (Or perhaps they should be penalized for every child who heads down the road to obesity because of them.)

        It's the person who thought up and implemented the concept of McDonald's who makes the most money. It's that person who assembled all the ideas, talent and expertise needed to pull it off.

        Maybe someday your designs will become so well-known that you become famous. Then, perhaps, you can demand and get royalties in addition to a base fee. Until then, however, your contract work is really no different from the other work businesses hire out. They need work done. You tell them how much you charge. They agree. You do the work. They pay you. You're done.

        Or maybe you should start your own clothing company and sell your own designs. Then you could reap all the profits.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by B View Post
          There are lots of people who contribute to or detract from a company's success.

          Should the person who came up with the name "Big Mac" get a royalty on every hamburger that's sold? Should the person who came up with the idea for a drive-up window get a cut from every automobile who drives through? What about the people who came up with the idea for Happy Meals? Should they get something for every Happy Meal that's sold? (Or perhaps they should be penalized for every child who heads down the road to obesity because of them.)

          It's the person who thought up and implemented the concept of McDonald's who makes the most money. It's that person who assembled all the ideas, talent and expertise needed to pull it off.

          Maybe someday your designs will become so well-known that you become famous. Then, perhaps, you can demand and get royalties in addition to a base fee. Until then, however, your contract work is really no different from the other work businesses hire out. They need work done. You tell them how much you charge. They agree. You do the work. They pay you. You're done.

          Or maybe you should start your own clothing company and sell your own designs. Then you could reap all the profits.
          I see what you are saying and I agree for the most part, yes. But what my initial question was "Is it completely unheard of for a designer to have an agreement term of wanting a percentage of what a company makes, especially when something they've designed is sold?"

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          • #6
            When you say there are 50 or more of you, it sounds like someone put out a crowdsource call for art in return for exposure, profited from it on all of your backs, and is reaping the benefits of those doing work for glory. It's called a Life Lesson.

            Do you know what usage rights are? Where you charge a royalty for the number of impressions made? Once that number is reached by your, you renegotiate the contract, ie if it's a ''best seller'' you up your price.

            If I were doing illustration work for a clothing line, that is how I would proceed. But I was an illustrator in a past life, and an image rights negotiator now, so I know those ropes pretty well. I really sort of doubt that your description of the business owner fits into the category of ''paying royalties''. They want something for near free to make a profit and there are many many people out there far too willing to give up what they do for someone else to make the profit.

            This guy took the risks of starting a clothing line and making it viable with a small stable of artists.
            There is nothing, short of a non-compete clause in your contract, keeping you from taking your toys, going home and starting your own.
            Someone has shown you it can be done.
            Have at it.
            Last edited by PrintDriver; 12-12-2016, 08:18 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
              When you say there are 50 or more of you, it sounds like someone put out a crowdsource call for art in return for exposure, profited from it on all of your backs, and is reaping the benefits of those doing work for glory. It's called a Life Lesson.

              Do you know what usage rights are? Where you charge a royalty for the number of impressions made? Once that number is reached by your, you renegotiate the contract, ie if it's a ''best seller'' you up your price.

              If I were doing illustration work for a clothing line, that is how I would proceed. But I was an illustrator in a past life, and an image rights negotiator now, so I know those ropes pretty well. I really sort of doubt that your description of the business owner fits into the category of ''paying royalties''. They want something for near free to make a profit and there are many many people out there far too willing to give up what they do for someone else to make the profit.

              This guy took the risks of starting a clothing line and making it viable with a small stable of artists.
              There is nothing, short of a non-compete clause in your contract, keeping you from taking your toys, going home and starting your own.
              Someone has shown you it can be done.
              Have at it.

              Hmm, interesting points you are making, I am thinking I want to talk to a lawyer about usage rights and all of that. On the other hand, I am not sure where you are getting 50 designers from lol but I am their primary designer, there are not 50 of us. But its like, I don't want to keep working for someone and have them make so much $$ off the work I've put in and walk away with next to nothing myself is all. I work hard at what I do.

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              • #8
                You said this in the other thread:
                when they first did not give me credit I said something, in which then they started just tagging me along with 50 Other people in their posts.
                For some reason I assumed the other 50 people were other designers getting tagged along with you.

                Yes everyone works hard for the money they make.
                You started off under a false assumption that you needed to make a name for yourself by undervaluing your illustrative work. I'm just pointing out that before even entering the professional arena as a clothing graphic designer that you might have done some research into what the going rate actually is and what the legal ins-and-outs of doing business are.

                Are you doing this work as a freelancer? If so, you should have had a business plan in place that did the marketing research and all of the necessaries to make your freelance business successful.
                If you are a contract worker producing work-for-hire, that's on you too. In theory this guy took on an inexperienced artist, and you took on a paying client. Who is using who again? That you are successful at what you do is a good thing. Provisions should have been made via contract for a review after 6, 12, 18 months.

                I'm not advocating for a business owner who may be taking advantage of your skills.
                With your ''demands,'' what you are proposing is more of a partnership, something you do not want to get into without a lawyer involved. The last thing you want to be doing is tying up your personal assets to someone else's dinghy, which is pretty much what you'd be doing with an unincorporated partnership.

                Proceed with caution.
                Last edited by PrintDriver; 12-12-2016, 10:10 AM.

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                • #9
                  If your work is as valuable to your client as you're saying it is, that gives you leverage to renegotiate the contract in a way more favorable to you. From a lifetime spent in the middle of these kinds of things, I suspect your client will not agree with your assessment regarding your importance to the success of the business. I suspect this person will simply feel that designers are a dime a dozen, and that you'll need to convince him or her otherwise.

                  The fact that your client already seems to be willfully ignoring the company's contract responsibilities is an indication of how seriously this person takes you. This isn't a good sign for establishing a mutually agreeable partnership moving forward.

                  If I were you, I'd speak to an attorney about your client continuing to breach the terms of the contract. If your client gets wind of this, however, it creates an adversarial situation that's not going to be favorable to any contract term renegotiations.

                  A contract attorney is in the best position to give you advice on how best to proceed. If you don't know any contract attorneys, try a Google search in your area and start doing some research. It's not all that different from doing research into which plumber or car mechanic to hire.

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                  • #10
                    If you've only made a few hundred dollars, and done a significant amount of work for that much, you have next to nothing to lose by trying to negotiate a better deal.

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