Can a Client Expect an Editable or Working File for Design Projects?

Every year or so we get a client who requests the Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop file of a project. At times, we say, “yes, here it is” and most of the time we say, “no.” The always “yes” answer is with logo design projects. The “no” is with almost everything else.

The metaphor I like to use with clients is that when you go to a restaurant you are purchasing the meal and not the recipe from which it was made.

Another metaphor might be buying a ticket for a magic show and expecting an explanation of how each trick was performed.

The editable files, which are usually in an Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop file contain a lot of information; that is, with those files a person can see exactly how something is put together. For a novice designer, seeing a layered Illustrator or Photoshop file is a goldmine, a detailed roadmap of how a product was made. Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

So, in a very honest and direct reason, we don’t give editable files to clients is that we don’t want to give away the recipe with the meal. We know the reason a client wants an edible file is to make derivative works and reduce costs by using our work as a template.

Another reason is that it is illegal for us to give fonts to our clients. We purchase licenses for a lot of fonts every year, and we license many more through our software licenses. The license we have for fonts does not include having them installed on multiple devices at multiple locations. We simply cannot give a client all the tools he would need to edit the files. Likewise, our license for stock art precludes us from giving away editable forms of what we have purchased. Yes, this all does matter a lot for companies and individuals that make their living from selling created goods. We need to respect that.

A third reason is a way many design companies make money. Yes, we all are in this to make money. When Kona Impact makes a sign, for example, we do not charge a separate design fee, and we recoup a portion of those costs on every sign we sell. Likewise, we often charge a loss leader cost for setting up business cards, and then we make some of that back when the cards are printed and reprinted.

This brings us to the crux of the issue:

What is the client buying when he or she starts a design project?

Let’s take a brochure as an example.

In most cases at Kona Impact, the client pays a design fee and a printing fee and expects a box of brochures as the product. In fact, when we begin a brochure project, we discuss printing with the client and give him or her price quotes. There are conceivably three prices:

  1. Supply the client with an editable file template. This is often a very high price quote because the client will require a license for the font and a license for any stock art. Likewise, we will not make any money on the printing or future revisions, so all of our costs and profits need to be recouped and made at a one-time sales point. Finally, we would in effect be teaching our craft and techniques, so the cost has to be very high.
  2. Supply client with a non-editable print-ready file. This is often a PDF that is ready for a specific printer. Note that each printer will have different sizes and file specs, so the client needs to decide this before beginning a project where it will be printed. This is certainly less expensive to the client than supply an editable template, but the design cost would be higher than a design plus print project.
  3. Design and print a brochure. This is probably 95% of our print projects. We provide a quote for the design and printing of a brochure. The client saves money overall because of a reduced design fee, and our access to trade printers allows us to get exceptional printing rates.

We don’t like telling clients that we will not give them a working or editable file, as they inevitably reply that they have “paid for the work.” The truth is they have paid for a product, which is a brochure, website, or sign, and not for the instruction manual and tools to replicate the product. There is a huge difference.

We recommend that clients ask for what they want when they begin discussions with a design company. Make it clear that you want to pay for an editable or working file upon completion. You might also want to specify that no stock art or non-system fonts are used to avoid licensing issues. Expect to pay a lot more if you are working with a professional design company, and expect that the provider might not want the job at the price you’re willing to pay.

Get these issues out in the open at the onset if they are important to you; to wait until a project is done might result is a flat out “no, we don’t give editable files away ever” or an issue with revisions or licensing.

Kona Impact | 329-6077