As part of blogging this year, I’d like to write some articles on subjects that hopefully both clients and fellow graphic designers/illustrators will find somewhat interesting and useful. Last week, a client got in touch with me as they wanted to be sent a copy of all of the files for the projects we had worked on to date, including all working or native files. Like it was no big deal. I thought that this would be an interesting issue to discuss because it’s not the first time a client has asked for the working or native files for a project and it’s something that I always feel is misunderstood.
When I’m working on a design item, I use a specific program to create it and this file is saved as a native file, it can only be opened by that particular program and is forever editable. So when a client asks for the same design but with updates, I can use its native file to make changes and export the final design. This native file, believe or not, is my intellectual property and its copyright/ownership belongs to me. There’s a general misconception that because the client has paid for a design to be created, all of the files produced for the project belongs to them. This isn’t the case at all (at least for my services or if it’s stated otherwise in a contract) – what the client has been quoted and what they’re paying for is the production (time, effort etc.) and the final end result with usage rights. Think of the native file as a tool to produce the end result. You wouldn’t ask a chef for the recipe after eating a dish at their restaurant, right? And even if you did, most likely they would tell you to get the hell out. They have probably worked on and tweaked the recipe over time and figured out the best way to make the dish as successful as possible. Their skills, knowledge, time, effort and passion poured into this recipe, making it an invaluable asset.
Well for design, it’s the same deal – native files are for the most part approached the same way but every designer has their little intricacies picked up over time with experience. The skills, knowledge and creativity associated with the production of these files and the end design are worth something and cannot be given away so freely.
So to cheekily quote Cher from Clueless … ugh, as if!
As a creative do you agree with this?