Should a designer give you the original design files?

So what are the original design files, or the source file to start with? The source file is the original digital file that the designer has created your designs from. So it has all the layers and it has all the colours, it has all the artwork.

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Source files and what they contain

The source file is the original digital file that the designer has created your designs from. So it has all the layers and it has all the colours, it has all the artwork. It is like a woman’s recipe, all the individual ingredients in there and the source file can be edited, so you can move the colours around, you can change things around a bit.

So my client asked me, ‘Can I please have the source file for my design work?’

And I said no.

Why I don’t provide source files

Because I don’t give my source files away. Now I know this is a really contentious subject and some designers say of course you must give your source files away, you know your work belongs to the clients.

So it’s a little bit tricky, as I actually don’t believe that all the artwork belongs to the client. I really don’t think the client should be given the absolute source files. And why is this?

The designer, the artist’s reputation and intellectual property

Well I consider myself not just a designer but also an artist. It’s taken me 20 years to get to where I am today and to create a style that I have and that goes in to creating the business and my reputation. So I really consider the work to be my intellectual property, I have the copyright for my work, even though my clients have the license to use the work in a business setting, it’s still my intellectual property.

So what I explained to this client, the reason that I don’t give the source file away is like asking an artist to make a picture for you and then once you’ve bought the picture you say could you give me the paints that you use and can you give me the paint brush as well and no artist would ever do that, because the client would get in and change the painting and move it around or add some paint all…all of a sudden it doesn’t become that artist’s work. And the artist’s work reputation could be destroyed or diminished, it really only takes a couple of strokes for a reputation to sort of go south.

So really should you give your source file to your clients and for all the good intentions in the world the client might have that they might tweak things around in the future… they could really make a dog’s dinner out of it! They can absolutely change the colour, change the design, the layout and all of a sudden your design is no longer your design. But..and here is the kicker, someone might say who did your design for you and they’ll go ‘Oh Emma from Bespoke Backdrops did my design.’

No I didn’t actually, I did the original design but you’ve gone in and edited it and it could be something that I absolutely do not agree with the design sense, yet I’m going to be, you know, responsible for that design in the wider world ‘Oh Emma did this,’ when in fact I didn’t.

Delivery of easy to edit files for clients that retain the design aesthetic

So I’m really protective of my reputation. Now so that’s not to say that you can’t give the files to clients, that the clients can edit themselves because of course you know sometimes the client wants to change something in the design and this is how I go about it.

So for example, if a client has a Facebook cover image or a poster for an event that happens regularly, that they need to change the date on, or they want to change some of the details of the business on their Facebook cover. I will give them a file that they can edit themselves. It doesn’t have all the layers on it. So they can’t go messing around with the design, but there’s an area on the space where they can go in and change the date of the event. So they don’t have to keep coming back to me to do that for them, or so they can change some of the wording around on their Facebook cover if they change their business so they add a new product or service to it. So that’s absolutely fine because that’s editable stuff that doesn’t ever effect on my reputation of the copyright or the intellectual property of the actual design.

So if you are to ask your designer for the source files, don’t be surprised if they say no.

Because it’s the designer’s reputation on the line, most designers spent so many years getting to where they are. If the source design files are provided, their reputation can all be ruined in a flash if somebody just comes in and edits bits, adds new colours and it just doesn’t fit with the design aesthetic and the expertise of the designer.

So I hope that sort of clears up the topic a bit as to whether you should ask for the design files from your designer or not. If you’re working with me I will not be giving you the source files, I will be giving you files that you can use and add some information yourself, if you so wish!

So I hope that’s being a little bit useful if you if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to message me (or comment on the Facebook video post) and I’ll be happy to take this conversation further. Okay, bye!

Making your business visually resonate with you, your customers and viewers is my priority!  If you have any questions, or would like to work with me, please click here to get in touch!