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Aren’t the original files mine too?

This is a question that graphic designers often get asked by their clients. Although it is up to each graphic designer what they choose to supply to their clients, the vast majority do not release ‘original’ files, unless a significant additional payment is made by the client. This can sometimes come as a shock to clients, so the aim of this article is to breakdown the reasons behind this standard industry practice.

 

First, let’s clarify the file types being referred to:

Original files (which are also referred to as ‘native’ or ‘source’ files) are the designer’s ‘working files’, where designs are created and work product assembled. For print-related products (such as brochures, business cards, booklets, etc) these are likely to be InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop files (but there are many other design software programs).

Final product files are most likely to be PDFs (print-ready or web accessible), JPGs or PNGs. Once a design is finalised, a graphic designer exports the design as a PDF (or JPG or PNG), so that the final product can be printed or used in its intended manner. These files can’t be modified.

 

It is understood by most clients (I’ve only ever encountered one person who had a different opinion on this!) that all concepts and drafts developed in order to produce a design are the copyright of the designer or company who produces them. That is, if a designer supplies a range of concepts for a client to choose from, the client ONLY has the right to use the concept that becomes the final product. All the other concepts and drafts developed in the process to create the final piece are the designers’ Intellectual Property (IP).

 

But where much misunderstanding can occur, is concerning the ‘ownership’ of native files (the working/source files). In a nutshell, the native files belong to the design company or designer. This is because the native files contain expertise, and the ‘know how’ of putting together all the pieces that make up a design. The client has copyright over, and has the right to use, the final product. The native files are the designers’ Intellectual Property (IP) unless an agreement (usually involving additional costs) is negotiated.

 

The following points provide an overview of what Intellectual Property might include, using the example of a brochure:

  • Expertise in how to prepare photos and images for commercial printing (e.g. resolution of photos depending on final print size and print method)
  • What type of digital file to use for final product
  • How to best prepare the layout
  • Understanding which software best works for this job
  • Skills in and expertise in combining photos, text, and layout
  • Skills and experience in preparing the final prepress file for a commercial printer.

 

All of the above is the expertise that a client can expect from a graphic designer. But the client is paying for the final design work, and shouldn’t expect to receive the ‘know how’ as well. In this scenario, it would be akin to the client going to the commercial printer and asking for the film or plates that were used to print the brochure. When a client pays for printing, they receive the final product (the printed brochures), but they don’t receive the technology/hardware used to make them.

 

Here are a few other analogies that help explain the ‘native files’ scenario:

  • When you buy a Coca-Cola, you’re purchasing the drink, not the formula that creates that drink.

  • When you go to a restaurant, you pay for the meal, but you don’t get the recipe.

  • When you hire a baker to make a wedding cake, you get the cake, but you don’t get the design template for the cake

  • When a plumber fixes your leaking tap, he doesn’t leave instructions for how to fix it next time.

 

The same principle applies to graphic design work. A graphic designer is engaged to provide a client with a solution for a specific marketing need. If a client also wants access to native files, this is a separate issue.

 

So what happens if you want or need the working files for your work product?

 

Most graphic designers will have clear terms and conditions for their work so their clients know what to expect. Unless a quote (and/or the designer’s terms and conditions) specify that native files WILL be provided, you should expect that they WON’T. Most graphic designers will state what final files will be provided (e.g. print-ready PDFs). If you need native files (as well as completed work), you need to let your graphic designer know (preferably in advance) that you’d like the working files as well as the completed product. An extra fee is usually charged for providing native files.

 

The exception to this at Shel Design is logo design. We choose to provide our clients with an 'EPS' file within the standard cost of designing any logo (as well as JPG and PNG), as we know how important that file is for your business or organisation. If you need to work with sign writers, uniform companies and other promotional companies, an EPS file is essential. However, for all other work product, PDF, JPG and PNG files are provided. CLICK HERE to read more about logo design with Shel Design.

 

So what are native files ‘worth’?

 

Every graphic designer will have their own methods of working out what to charge for native files, and this may also vary from job to job depending on the complexity of the design work. But the following considerations are likely to be factors:

Cost of the original document design. Did the artwork have to be created from scratch or was it based on an existing design? Were there illustrations created as part of the process? How much work and expertise went in to creating the layout?

Additional benefits. What additional benefits, outside of the original agreement, is the client getting by having native files? How unique are those benefits because of the graphic designer’s abilities?

Third party items. Legally, graphic designers can’t provide fonts or licensed images associated with the final product. Licences for fonts and images need to be purchased directly by the client (or purchased separately on their behalf). The cost for fonts and images can range from a few dollars to many thousands. Obviously, if a client provides images for use in a work product, a client can’t be charged again for their own images! However, if a graphic designer edits, corrects or modifies client-supplied images, there has been value added to the images. These images can then be used across all a client’s promotions which means a client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement.

Ease of repurposing. Providing files where a client can easily copy/paste elements from the native files, and use them in other applications, means a client is able to use the designer’s ‘design sense’ without paying for this each time – the client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement. This is a commodity and has great value, and therefore incurs a cost.

Using a designer’s aesthetic without their control. This point is best explained using an example: if a graphic designer has promoted their services (or included a client’s artwork in their portfolio) with explanations such as "I’ve designed XYZ’s company Annual Report since 2018" and subsequent reports aren’t up to the same standard, it can cost the graphic designer business in an indirect manner by affecting their reputation.

The creation of unique, original images or illustrations. If original illustrations are created for specific use in a specific work product, providing native files gives the client access to those illustrations to be used anywhere outside of the artwork – again, the client is benefitting from the designer’s work outside the original agreement. This is an added value and therefore incurs a cost.  

 

Ultimately though, each artwork and client is unique and therefore graphic designers generally won’t have a ‘set price’ or even a ‘set percentage’ for supplying native files. For artwork that is primarily comprised of text and client supplied images, the cost for supplying native files will likely be much lower than artwork that has a great deal of original illustrations or complex design elements. Most graphic designers will be happy to have a conversation about your ‘native file requirements’ and will negotiate a price based on the factors listed above.

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Demystifying Logo Design

Getting your logo designed can be tricky to navigate, so here are some tips to help you navigate the process!

b2ap3_thumbnail_Logo-Design.jpg1. Branding process

Your logo is just one element of your whole branding. Therefore any discussion with a graphic designer should include questions about any existing branding, or some in depth questions about your business or organisation (such as your target market, the products/services your offer, and so on). This helps the designer to get a good impression so they can design a logo that is appropriate.

Most graphic designers will include a number of concepts in the price of designing a logo. You should ensure that any ideas you have will be considered, but you should also be open to allowing the graphic designer to come up with concepts, based on their impression of your business. A good designer is likely to come up with some ideas that you never would have thought of!

2. What program is it being designed in?

Logos should always be designed in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, or a simliar program that can create vector images (this blog article explains it really well). If anyone tells you they use Photoshop to design logos, do not use them! Your logo will be limited to the size of the original image - if you need to make it larger, it will be pixelated. Vector programs like Illustrator also give the designer much more scope with effects and endless possiblities for design.

3. What final file formats should I be given?

Some graphic designers choose to provide only 'raster image' files (e.g. JPG, GIF, etc) and then charge you a (much higher) additional fee for an 'EPS' (or vector) file. The reasons for doing this can vary, but generally it is a way of ensuring that you will continue to utilise their services (because they 'own' your original logo files).

At Shel Design, we choose to provide our clients with an 'EPS' file within the standard cost of designing any logo (as welll as JPG and PNG), as we know how important that file is for your business or organisation. If you need to work with signwriters, uniform companies and other promotional companies, an EPS file is essential. It can be enlarged to ANY size, it can be manipulated to work in reverse colours (e.g. if you need colours varied when the logo is placed on a dark background) and it has a transparent background (very important!). Plus there are other 'design advantages' that I won't bore you with, but that are also important too!

And we want our clients to come back to us for future jobs becuase they love our work, not because they are beholden to us!

4. Check portfolios

It is always a good idea to look at other logos a graphic designer has created (most graphic designers have a website with a portfolio - if not, ask for some samples to be sent via email or view them in person). See if you think the quality appears to be good and the variety wide.

If you are ready to have your logo designed by Shel Design, contact us for a quote!

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Don’t be scammed!

We are bombarded with information every day via email, snail mail, social media and so on. So it can be hard to be on high alert at all times for the inevitable scams that will cross your path, attempting to trick you into parting with private information and money.

Most of us are aware of the standard scams, such as the Nigerian emails. But there are two more common ones that you should be aware of:

b2ap3_thumbnail_domain-name-group-scam-sm.jpgDomain Registration Letter/Invoice

You may have received in the mail, a letter addressed specfically to you with what looks like an invoice for payment for a domain that you have registered (for an amount of around $245). Many people do not keep records (or have forgotten) where they registered their domain, and therefore this legitimate looking letter (usually with the logo 'Domain Register' or 'Domain Name Group') appears as though it is from their domain registrar. But upon closer inspection, the domain that is 'due to be renewed' is a slight variation on a domain that you actually do own (for example, I might receive one that instead of sheldesign.com.au it is 'sheldesign.net.au'). Or it might actually state your REAL domain name.

In either case, your domain is NOT registered with this company and the scammer sends the invoice in the hope that you won't notice, and will simply pay the invoice.

To avoid being 'stung' by this scam, you should keep (securely) on file the details of your domain registration. And if someone else pays your invoices (e.g. bookkeeper, etc), ensure that you make them aware of this scam (and the correct domain registration details)

CLICK HERE for more information about this and similar scams

Trademark email

You may receive an email from a 'China company' that quite officially informs you that someone has tried to register 'your trademark' in China. It will tell you that if you act quickly you can stop this from happening. This is also a scam and you should not respond to it.

if you are ever in doubt, the best course of action is to NOT respond to the communication you have received and check with a trusted source (e.g. Shel Design, your trademark lawyer, your domain registrar, and so on) before you take any action.

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Confused about the world of websites?

If you are about to embark on creating a web presence for your business (or are still confused about what owning a website involves), read on!

There are essentially three elements essential to getting your business on the world wide web – and I have found it helpful to compare these elements to mobile phone setup:

Domain Name = this is similar to your mobile phone number

Web Hosting = this is similar to your mobile phone plan or package

Website = this is similar to your handset

As you would be aware, you need all three of those elements for your mobile phone to work. And in the same way, for your website to ‘appear’ you need a domain, a web hosting plan and of course, a website.

So here are each of those elements explained in more detail:

1.       Domain Name

The very first thing you need to do is register a domain name. In fact, you can do this (and should do this) long before you plan to build a website. This is because the domain name you want may not be available, or may become unavailable if you wait too long. Domain names do not need to match exactly a business name, so for this reason, someone else may have already registered the one you want. In addition, there are some unscrupulous people who register domain names for existing businesses, for the purposes of selling it at an inflated price, or to just be annoying!

The process of registering a domain name is fairly simple. You need to find a domain registration company (registrar) at which to register and purchase your domain. All Australian domains (i.e those ending in .com.au) can only be registered for 2 years (no more, no less). Other domains (such as .com) have various registration periods, but always in increments of 1 or 2 years.

Most websites/companies that sell domain names require you to create an online account, check that your desired domain name is available, register your domain and pay for your domain online.

BUT BE WARNED!! Generally with pricing of domain names, you ‘get what you pay for’. Meaning that if you register your domain through a cheap domain company, it is highly likely that their prices don’t include services that are standard in more reputable companies. For example, one of the vital things you will need to do when you have a website ready to launch, is to access your domain’s ‘DNS records’, so that you can ‘point’ your domain to your hosting (see web hosting section below for more information on this). Many ‘cheap’ domain companies charge you extra to access this area, and you end up paying the same or more than higher priced domain companies.

Another consideration when choosing a domain registrar is whether this is a primary service that they offer. For example, most telecommunications companies in Australia also offer business services such as domain registration. What they DON’T tell you is that the domains are not actually registered through their company, so when you need to get support, make changes or transfer your domain, it can be extremely difficult to achieve those things.

Shel Design offers domain registration via a reputable domain registrar and our domain prices include access to all the areas you will require.

2.       Website Hosting

Now that you’ve registered your domain, you will also need to purchase ‘web hosting’ if you want to have a website and/or set up emails using your domain name (e.g. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Signing up for a web hosting account gives you access to a ‘server’ on which your website is stored (and hopefully backed up if you are using a reputable company!). When your web hosting account is created, you will be given the ‘domain name server’ settings that you will need to enter into your domain account. This ‘links’ your hosting to your domain.

Most web hosting companies provide you with an admin area called ‘cpanel’ (or similar). It is in this area where you can setup email accounts, check website traffic statistics and many other functions.

Shel Design recommends Crucial Web Hosting for a number of reasons:

  • They are based in (Sydney) Australia.
  • Their prices are very reasonable
  • The hosting package includes 50GB storage, unlimited data transfer and unlimited email accounts.
  • They provide automatic backups
  • They guarantee 99.9% uptime
  • The support they provide is comprehensive, fast and very helpful.

All of these aspects are VITAL elements for any web hosting that you choose. Please do not be tempted to choose a ‘cheap’ option that doesn’t offer all the above. I guarantee you will regret it in the long run, with a website that is often down due to poor uptime or low storage limits.

3.       Website

There are many options for website design, and often it will be like comparing apples with oranges when you try to choose between various website design quotes! But here are some things that should be ‘non-negotiables’:

  • Your website should be built using a Content Management System (CMS) as this will allow you to easily make changes to your site
  • Any CMS system should be transferrable. That is, you need to ask the web designer if the CMS is owned by them or is ‘open source’. This is important, because if you decide you no longer wish to have this web designer look after your site and/or wish to transfer the site elsewhere, you will not be able to. The system, if owned by the website company, will likely only be able to be used while ever you continue to be contracted with that company. In addition, companies with their own CMS often charge higher hosting fees.
  • I highly recommend you do not have your site built using ‘Flash’, as this is not compatible with search engines. That is, ‘Flash’ is essentially a collection of images, and search engines are unable to ‘read’ your site.
  • Your web designer should be able to describe for you the ways that your site will be built to maximise Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). That is, it needs to be built in a way that allows for optimum chances for your site to rank well in search engine results. This should include the text you see on the page, as well ‘background’ text/keywords.
  • Ideally, your quote for website design should also include: documentation or instructions for using your website; a specific list of inclusions (e.g. how many pages, forms, etc); whether there are limits on number of changes and drafts; prices for ongoing maintenance where required.

 

So now you are on your way! If you have any questions, you are welcome to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABN: 88 695 161 542

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