How do you describe a revision?

What constitutes a revision? It’s such a gray area when it comes to art. I’m sure it’s a little different for everyone - I don’t think there’s a standardized definition. Though, I’ve heard that a revision is 15% or less change in artwork.
I want to be able to manage expectations from the get-go with clients so when they come back with revision requests, they are not asking me to change basically everything about what I have made.

I’ve been reading sample contracts, and while they often will say how many revisions are included, but not what a revision is limited to.

I’m curious how everyone deals with the ambiguity of revisions.

As far as I know, a revision is anything the client wants to change.

If they want to change a whole design I’d consider it a failure on my part to listen or ask the right questions.

I particularly love the type of contract that states the designer is responsible for revisions until approved. Usually it has to start affecting their due date to make them stop and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

I don’t include “revisions” in my contracts due to the ambiguity of what constitutes a revision. Using your example, I don’t know how one would go about identifying what a 15% change might be. Instead, I spell out exactly what the deliverables are then assign a dollars-per-hour cost to anything beyond that (basically a nuisance fee).

Over the years, I found that writing a set number of revisions into a contract served as reason for clients to request them. Most of the time, no revisions were really needed, but clients asked for them anyway since they figured they were being charged for them.

Besides, clients hire me to create what they need (which isn’t necessarily the same as what they like). Having them meddle in the work as they vacillate between this and that, change their minds, request revisions, and fiddle around with design details is something I don’t want and something they shouldn’t want either. My work suffers when I start catering to client whims, so it’s best to discourage it by charging them extra.

Today, I just charge a bit more for the entire job and assume that some tweaking will be needed here and there for various and understandable reasons. If it goes beyond that, clients know they’ll be charged an hourly fee, so they tend to be more efficient in signing off on final approval.


A revision is any change. You can set the number of revisions that are included in your pricing to keep your client concise, but you should allow the client the option make further revisions for an additional fee (usually hourly rate).

15% is an arbitrary number.

When I give a client a price, I specify number of revisions meaning a round of proofs. If they change 4 pictures, 7 words, a colour and the placement of a few items in one round, that counts as a set of revisions.

A revision for me constitutes amendments to an existing design. If too much changes it’s a new design. I have had jobs that were ‘tweaked’ several times, resulting in a final version that bore no resemblance to the original.

Reminds me of the story about the janitor who had the same broom for 50 years. Changed the handle 4 times and the brush 7 times but to him it was the same broom.

I don’t define what a revision is and isn’t with clients or in a contract. In my opinion, that’s getting down to the hair splitting level. I add a line that says “This proposal includes XX hours for revisions. Significantly more or significantly less time spent in revisions may affect the actual amount billed. (Company name) will advise (Client name) before time spent on revisions exceeds budgeted amount.” The goal with this is to say, “Hey, I will do some changes, but don’t think ‘some changes’ equals ‘unlimited changes.’”

I know how not to describe a revision.
A printer’s proof is NOT an opportunity for revision.
For too many years now it has become customary to use the printer’s proof as a final opportunity to change a layout. Even a typo change at that stage will likely often affect your print due date.
A printer’s proof is only meant to show you the color (if it is a match proof,) the material being printed on, and that nothing has dropped out in the rip


I agree with you in theory. But I’d rather see a typo on a printer’s proof than on the delivered product.

What about the clients that flippantly change their mind, or have not established any parameters until they see your work then suddenly have an opinion? Or maybe the clients who “just want to see” something?
I agree, the designer is certainly responsible for finding out what they want, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do to please certain clients.

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Yes, that’s how I think of it too. However if someone is not used to dealing with designers, they might not think of it this way. They might assume they are hiring you and you will do whatever they ask for one flat, low fee.

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Seriously, clients can destroy a great design when they start back seat designing. There’s a reason why they’re not designers! You send them a proof and ask if they like it, and suddenly they become Picasso.

Reminds me of articles like these

Which isn’t to say that they don’t have insight. They know more about their businesses, their customers and their products or services than we do, and it’s important to listen carefully. But that conversation should take place at the beginning as part of the research.

What should never happen is diving right into a solution and, when the project is nearing completion, have the client mention something that significantly changes the equation and that should have been brought up at the beginning.

When that’s the client’s fault, the client should be charged for the wasted time. When it’s the designer’s fault for not doing the right research and asking the right questions, the designer needs to eat the extra cost.

What should never happen is setting up a scenario where all the right research has been done only to have the client come back at the last minute and start messing with things based upon their personal likes and dislikes. From my experience, making revisions a standard part of the job is a wide-open invitation for that kind of thing.

I definitely agree finding the typo on the proof is definitely the better scenario. With the caveat that you may lose your slot in the print queue if the file has to be resubmitted for any reason. Plus, if the due date can’t change, rush charges may go into effect.
Sometimes it’s a case of the printer fixing and running, but often text is outlined, embedded in a PDF, or worse, flattened in a photoshop file.
Life is full of little tradeoffs.


My preference is to have an open purchase order with a client, then bill hourly against that for all labor.

But sometimes clients want cost assurance on projects, so I will quote a flat rate for the first proof and up to 2 rounds of changes. Any work after that is billed hourly, with a 15 minute minimum for each round. A round is defined as all comments submitted to me at the same time. So they get the opportunity for cost assurance, as long as they have their act together. If they start back seat driving, then they pay for that, by the hour.

If they look at proof 1 and they decide they don’t like the concept, they can elect to cancel further work, and pay a kill fee instead of the flat rate. The kill fee is less than flat rate, but not much since most of the work is already done.

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Here’s my process. I quote including one revision, all others are chargeable at my hourly rate. If the revision is my error or misunderstanding, doesn’t count. I define revision as submitting a new proof for approval.

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