FAQ - Design Files/Rights/Info

Since I've started Ninth Moon, I've learned a lot about design, copyright info, licensing agreements--probably more than I ever wanted to know.  I'm not a lawyer, but I really want to do what's right, not just for me, but for my clients.  Aside from being bad karma to steal from another artist, it's not good business. 

It's a snarly world filled with legalese out there (that's my disclaimer--talk to an attorney if you need cast-in-stone advice), but this should give you a basic understanding of what you get when you purchase a design from me, what you don't get . . . and most importantly, how to ultimately get what you need. 

 

Will you e-mail the native design files to me?  The layered Photoshop file?

Usually, no.  Here's why:

I use licensed fonts and royalty-free stock images when creating my designs.  Because these assets are used in multiple designs for different clients, they are licensed to Ninth Moon, not purchased on behalf of a client.  To protect the original copyright holder (the artist, the photographer), these licensing agreements do not allow distribution to clients outside of a "print ready" file.  In other words, I am not allowed to send files in any format where the native image can be extracted and re-used--which includes sending in "master" or "layered" files.  The good news is that by using licensed files, you pay a fraction of the cost compared to what you would have to pay if you purchased all of these files exclusively for your own use (some fonts cost over $1,000 for the set). 

Are there other potential problems I should be aware of before investing in a native file?

While not comprehensive, here are some issues you should be aware of before making the decision to purchase a native file:

    • Incompatible software versions (I might not have the same version of Photoshop that your designer has, for instance, and the features I've used may not be backwards compatible).  Files will be provided only in the software versions they were created in.  It is the client's responsibility to obtain any needed software/versions to open these files. 

    • Graphic design files can be HUGE and, depending on your computer/equipment, you might have trouble opening/modiftying these files.   At the time of this writing, 16 GB of ram is pretty much the bare minimum I'd recommend.   Less than that, you might be waiting awhile for things to load.  Like, until next Christmas.

    • Different skill levels:  Your design artist might be much more talented than I am (no problem there, other than perhaps a slight flash of jealousy)--OR they might be an intern/admin assistant with little design experience and can trash a file if not careful.  

    • For the reasons listed above, if asked to update/modify a file at a later date (say the intern decides to pursue underwater basket weaving, I will be working from my last version, not one another designer has worked with.  (I'm happy to take a look and see what we have to work with, but usually it's less expensive if we start from where I left off)

But I really, really, really want/need native design files.  Is "no" your final answer?

My goal is to help you, not be a roadblock.  If you ultimately decide you need a native design file, please let me know at the outset of your project and I can build in the cost of purchasing these assets for your use.   To give you a ballpark figure, industry standard for pricing is about 300% of your original project (yeah, ouch--but there you have it).  Your actual cost may be more or less, depending on what files/fonts we need to buy outright for your use.  Likewise, if I know you'll need native design files in advance, I can also help your budget by being a little more "cost aware" of assets you will need to purchase. 

I didn't know I needed the file . . . until now.  (Or--my web designer, cover artist, mother-in-law just told me they need access):

If you want to obtain these files after your design is finalized, the cost will be slightly higher due to the retro-work that needs to take place to get the licenses purchased and files prepped for distribution. 

Why would someone even want the native design file?

I can think of a few reasons:

  • Perhaps someone wants to see "the inner workings" of my brilliant designs (just kidding here).  Truthfully, in the graphic design industry, many artists don't like to share this info.  They consider the "how-I-did-this" to be proprietary.   I figure it's somewhat like writing.  You can see what I'm doing, but that doesn't mean you can do the same thing yourself or create something similar just by looking at my work, so I'm okay with this.  Fair warning:  thrashing around in my files can be like a rough draft of a novel--little edits and notes everywhere.  Messy, crazy, hard to follow.  Shorthand only I can decipher.  You've been warned. 

  • Client would like to be able to perform simple edits without paying full price (or waiting) for an entirely new design, for example, adding "New York Times Bestselling Author" to your promo material or changing a book's release date.  I totally get this.  You'll have to balance out whether the cost of getting the original file is more expensive than a re-do. I try and be fair on my pricing, in either case. 

  • Using the basic design for something else.  Maybe they love a bookmark and want to use the same concept for something else, say a Facebook or Twitter banner . . . but they need to shuffle things around a bit.  Having the layered file will allow them this kind of flexibility.

 

Can I use the design you created in my Zazzle/Cafe Press/Amazon/Whatever store? 

Probably not--at least not "as is."  I incorporate royalty-free stock images into my designs.  The licensing for these images includes--in a non-legal nutshell--use in marketing/promo/advertising materials.  This means that while you could print something on a tote bag and give it away (marketing/advertising)--once you decide you want to SELL these products for a profit, the license use is outside of the original intent.  Most images have an extended license option we can purchase on your behalf for this additional use. . . but not all images have this option.

If you think you will be using your design on a product you intend on selling, please let me know at the outset.  It hasn't happened to me yet, but it would be horribly disappointing to create something that the client can't use down the road, either due to licensing restrictions or prohibitive cost.  Also, if I know in advance, I can be budget-aware.  These licenses usually range from $50-$150 per image used in your design.  (Note the "per image" comment.  I can easily use 5-10 images in a single design concept).  Unless you have dancing room in your bank account, you probably don't want me throwing in images with reckless abandon.

 

Can I trademark/copyright something you design for me?

Unfortunately, no.  Images are created using royalty-free stock images and purchased fonts.  If you need original, exclusive art, your best bet is to contract with an artist /illustrator who will assign you these exclusive rights.  While I'm not endorsing/recommending any particular firm, I know my clients have had some success with  www.fiverr.com, www.hireanillustrator.com  or even local graphic design schools.  If certain rights are important to you, be sure and clarify rights in advance as not all artists will give these to you. 

Do you reuse your designs (or part of your designs) for other clients?

Yes and no.  Sometimes I'll re-use a part of a design (or a layout concept) that a new client has fallen in love with.  This is usually something nondescript (like swirls in a corner, for example, or the layout of a bitty booklet).  Even so, I try to avoid having two clients with identical (or nearly identical) marketing assets.  I think the only time I've had something come close to this situation is when I created a "Central Park in Winter" bookplate for an author's mystery series.  Another client, several years later, wanted to use the same stock image for a memorial bookplate.  I felt the designs were far enough apart (and generic enough) that the two would never overlap--or if they did, it wouldn't be a major catastrophe.  One of the benefits of having a large client base in the same industry is I can keep an eye out for duplicate designs in the same marketing space. 

Here's a more likely scenario, where I can actually help:  there are a few male "hero" models that are used quite frequently, especially in the women's fiction/romance markets.  If I know several of my clients are going to the same convention--even if they want to use the same male model--I'll do my best to make sure they aren't (at least) in the same pose.  Or if they insist on the same pose, I can do a lot to make the design itself look different.  The bottom line is while there's not much I can do to prevent another client from using the same stock image (they could just go to a different graphic designer), I can at least nudge them in a different direction.  No one wants to show up at the prom with the same dress, y'know??