Design reuse by client

Hi there.
I’m new here and also mostly “new” as a graphic designer and I have a question that I suppose has been asked before, but I can’t seem to find a specific answer. Maybe I just don’t know how to search for the right question.
A while back I was contracted to develop the graphic image for a conference, including logos, website main page, a poster and a flyer. That was all approved and payed for, with a very basic written, contract more like a description of pieces to be delivered (pdf files - that much was specified).
A while after, I was contacted again with the information that the client wanted to reuse the image for next years event, with “minor” adjustments.
My question is obviously, can they do adaptations of previous works made specifically for another event. I don’t specifically want to keep working with this client, but I’m having the feeling that they have the idea that they can reuse and readapt the work as they see fit. They just have the pdf files, so I’m not quite sure if they are planning on editing them…Is this legally possible at all? I don’t want to keep the work hostage but it doesn’t feel right to just let anyone change the design as they see fit…

It’s common practice for the client to own the copyright to graphic design they have paid for. If you don’t want to hand over the native files, you don’t have to, but they might just go to another designer for the edits.

May I ask why you don’t want the repeat work? Regular clients are good dependable money and make up a sizeable percentage of my client base.

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If you’re not sure what they have in mind, you might talk with them and ask. Are they asking you to do it? Are they asking for the native files?

Find out exactly what they want. And try to see it from their point of view.

Hey, thanks for the quick reply!
I think maybe asking for more information is the sensible thing to do!
So the answer to the question of can they alter the design as they see fit (even without the original files) is then a yes? I had the complete opposite idea…
Responding to your question, graphic design isn’t my main activity, more like a creative outlet…but over the years I ended up working sporadically for an event planning company. Nevertheless, I kind of take a lot of time in my designs, rendering them close to totally unprofitable, so that reason for wanting the business kind of disappears. This stroke me as more of a matter of principle…

I say of course. A client reorder with changes is quite common. In fact, it’s preferred in a sense - they’ve decided to come back to you for one, and two, it’s an easy way to make a quick-few extra dollars.

I hope you didn’t think you’re obligated to make changes for free. You bill for your time to make the adjustments. I even have a minimum time frame in place with my clients. It states that I will bill, at a minimum, for 15 minutes and no less.

Don’t think to yourself “these changes will only take 2 minutes” think about file handling, think about creating proofs, the process to email and await approval - this is all billable time.

May I ask why you don’t want to continue work for this client? They paid. sounds like a sound client to me. Besides, who knows what they might have for you in the future.

Though, if they are asking to make changes on their own, using your previously supplied files. There’s not much you can do about that.

I only supply a print ready PDF to clients. All typefaces outlined. If they request a source file, I am obligated in a sense to give it to them. If they’re seeking an artist to begin with, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to efficiently make changes on their own. And ultimately request your services again. For your rate of graphics costs of course.

It really all depends. On the contract, and on the circumstances, whether you’re an employee, or an outside vendor.

But if someone pays you for design, that gives them some rights. Normally those rights are spelled out in a contract ahead of time. Apparently that didn’t happen, so the ideal outcome would be you negotiating with them for a win-win.

Holding to your “principle” while asking for money… may not work. Sometimes customer service bangs up against professional pride. If you want more business, sometimes you kick your pride aside and take the check.

If they feel they can make the changes, 1: without your assistance and 2: without your original files - there’s not much you can do about that. I’m surprised they even reached out to you if that’s the case. I somehow feel they still NEED you in someway.

There’s been many-a threads on this forum where a designer’s pride has gotten in the way of their work. I remember a recent thread where a client passed a project to another design, and then back to original designer (OP of the thread).

The original designer then had a pride issue about handling other artists work.

At the end of the day, we provide a service like any other. If a contractor installs a stair case in my home, and then I decide i’m going to paint it, who’s to tell me otherwise. But, If I botch the job, i’ll be reaching back out to that contractor. Or, if I want, I can choose to hire somebody new.

I usually have a hard time understanding the impulse to be protective of past deliverables. If you were a sculptor who fashioned a statue for someone’s garden and collected the fee you set for doing so, would you somehow feel violated if they allowed a vine to grow up and around it? Would you think you have legal basis to prevent them from hanging a flower garland on it? What if they had another sculptor alter it? Aren’t they within their rights to do anything they please with their statue?

We may indulge ourselves with visions of our good work living on with all our sweat equity and all its integrity intact forever, like the famous works of the elite in our profession, but in the day-to-day Graphic Design business, expecting that is tantamount to delusions of grandeur.

Thanks again for the replies.
I get the comparison with the statue, but i don’t think its very accurate in these cases…
Anyway, this isn’t so much a matter of pride, but having been burned many times in other parallel creative activities i’m just trying to understand whats expected and what is sensible in such cases. The position of a good service provider and “luring” clients with good designs and willingness to work with them on their needs, suits me as well :slight_smile: Nevertheless, do you feel that designers should completely disregard how clients use and possible transform the work you do for them?

Completely agree with you HotButton.

As long as your artwork isn’t used in a malicious fashion of sorts. I would, yes, in a sense disregard how the file is used. You completed your end of the bargain, received your payment, and that’s that. If the client was happy with the work, it’s a job well done.

Again, it depends.

And again, contracts are the antidote to getting burned. You amend your contract to prevent similar kinds of burning in the future.

If burned, then amend contract.

It doesn’t have to be some huge, notarized page of legalese. Just a simple written agreement that spells out the expectations of both sides. With both sides signing.

Graphic design is a commodity. It isn’t Art. Alot of times the designer cannot even copyright the work they have done, especially if the client has provided all the content (images and text.)
You have to learn to let go. Don’t get so involved that the piece becomes personal. Think of it as if it were a highly crafted pencil box that you then sell and the client can do with as they please; not a sculpture, which has no use other than to sit there. Graphic design has a use. And like that pencil box can be re-used over and over.

(it’s occurring to me that pencil boxes may no longer exist…)

Hah, yet you disqualify my sculpture analogy! Actually, I didn’t intend the sculpture example to be a direct parallel. I was, in fact, attempting to reinforce the point by asserting that even if it was your art . . .

The Daiso store still sells pencil boxes. And a lot of excellent other types of containers for creative supplies.