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Posted by:SignCraft's Editors

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Don’t give your designs away

Monday, July 29, 2013

Maybe they're just going into business, or maybe they are an established business that doesn't really have a consistent image. But when you did their sign or lettered their truck, you suggested that they start with a logo—a design that they could use for all their advertising. They weren't too interested. They said they really just needed a sign. A few weeks later, you get the call.

"Hey, could you email us the design for our truck? Everybody loves it. It looks so good we're going to use it on our cards and t-shirts and website...."

You already know what will happen if you tell them the design will cost $500 or $800 or $1000.

"What!? It's already done! All you have to do is attach it to an email or put it on a CD. You want us to pay that much just to make a copy of the file?!"

Things will likely go badly, and one or both sides will feel they have been taken advantage of.

When Robin and David McDonald, Avila Sign & Design, Arroyo Grande, California, [] were first featured in

SignCraft twenty years ago, Robin shared her practical solution to this touchy issue. Simply tell them up front that you think they'll eventually want to use this design for all their marketing, and spell out the cost on the invoice for their sign.

"If we can't sell the design first,” says Robin, “we tell them they can still buy the design later if they want to use it for other advertising. We tell them the cost, and when they pick up their sign, the cost of the design and for camera-ready art on disk are noted on the invoice, should they

choose to buy it in the future. We find that almost every one of these customers end up buying the design within a month or so.

“We price the sign and the design separately from the outset. It clears the air and eliminates confusion later about the value of the design. You

haven’t pushed it on them—it’s an option they can buy at any time. Best of all, they understand before we start that the design is not theirs until they buy it. Otherwise, they’ll just assume that the design is free.

“When I give them their CD, I explain that it has value, too. If they lose it, it will cost $134 for me to locate the files and make them a new one. I remind them not to give it to a printer and expect them to keep track of it.”



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Comments  4

  • Larry Elliott 31 Jul

    Robin & David, GREAT advice, I've preached those same sentiments for years.

    BTW, super nice work, I love the Moonstones Jewelry sign, classy!


  • Heidi English 31 Jul

    Thank you Robin & David for the great advice. Getting compensated for design time is always a struggle in this industry.
    Heidi English
    Diverse Signs
    Fresno, CA

  • Paul Schlimme 07 Aug

    We work for many small home builders with weekend directional signs and community signage so this is very helpful advice, nice way to add to the sale by low key suggesting you can buy design but no obligation!

    Paul Schlimme
    Weekend Signs

  • Jackie Wolfe 14 Aug

    Question that I run into.....How do you stop other sign companies from just recreating your design????  I have had this happen to me and what do you do when this happens.

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