Learning to Love Graphic Designers with Long Contracts

Posted on Posted in Design Mind

Contracts have a bad reputation, but over the years I have developed a bizarre fondness for contracts that is a little out of the ordinary. Nearly every negative project experience I have had has been due to a badly written contract that is missing key components that would save the client and myself time, money and a lot of pain and anguish.

Design contracts lay everything out. A good contract will tell everyone involved in a project what is expected, when it is expected and how it should be accomplished—without a solid contract, a lot of assumptions are made. And, one thing that can be said about assumptions … they are usually wrong.

graphic icon of Contract

A Few Things a Design Contract Should Tell You:

Depending on the project there may be many more items than this, but here are a few key points that will keep you out of trouble, happy and free from worry next time you hire a designer.


Scope of Work & Changes to the Scope

What is the project? This should be outlined clearly. It is not enough to say “a flier.” It should be clearly spelled out. Is the flier two sided? Is it black &  white or full color? How will it be printed and who is responsible for having it printed? What size is it?

As much information as possible should be included in the Scope of Work. Additionally, if the Scope is changed what happens? Is there an additional charge? Will the additional work be billed hourly or does a new contract need to be created? How is it handled and who agrees to the changes?


Cost and Payment Terms

When do you pay? At the beginning? At the end? Monthly? In installments? This should be agreed upon before any project begins. Additionally, expenses such as printing costs, hiring copywriters and stock photography should be accounted for in the payment terms. No one wants to be hit with a surprize bill.


What Revisions

Depending on if a project is hourly or a flat fee, it is important to set up a clear expectation for what a revision is and how many are included in the scope of a project. If revisions are used up, how much additional revisions cost should also be included. Many designers include 2 or 3 revisions for each deliverable of a project, some include many more, and some don’t include any. Make sure you know ahead of time so that the process goes smoothly.


Who Owns the Work

Depending on who you are working with and the type of project that is being worked on, ownership of the project can be a little tricky. It is important that this be laid out in stone. Typically most designers and agencies release ownership of the finished project files to the client upon final payment with a clause that allows them to use the work in their portfolio. However, Photographers typically maintain ownership and grant use rights to a business.


This is not the project you are looking for… You are halfway there and you just can’t do it… What are the terms of calling it quits? Maybe the designer is not up to par? Maybe you no longer need a quad-fold brochure with a talking pop-out? No matter what make sure you know what happens when you throw the towel in.

Any Fees or Upcharges

Most designers and agencies will charge a small upcharge when handling vendors and outside purchases. Stay away from anyone who won’t disclose their upcharges. 10-25% is standard depending on the type of service and the location. Also, it should be noted many designers and agencies develop strong relationships with their vendors which result in overall reduced prices and higher quality for you.


You are about to announce a new product or have a big event coming up. The last thing you need is your designer telling the world about it. Or maybe, you want every moment of the process broadcast to the world. Make sure that the contract notes what should and should not be confidential.

A well-devised contract opens up communication between all parties and ensures that expectations are met to their fullest potential.

One thought on “Learning to Love Graphic Designers with Long Contracts

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