I'm a graphic designer and front-end web developer. I was recently approached to design and build a simple brochure website for a language school to showcase their courses. The school is currently having a custom piece of software developed to aid students during the learning process.

The client is now talking about using the same design style for their software. This means I'll be designing an additional UI (fields, buttons etc). Would you advise I charge an annual license fee for the design + my time for the actual design work? The language school will rely on the software for each module.

I'm used to designing simple portfolio websites, so your advice would be greatly appreciated before I provide a quote.

Thanks :)

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    A consideration which may sway the decision: if they don't pay the annual fee next year, how do you stop them using your design (apart from lawyers)? Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 18:15
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    An excellent point. The client I'm working with has a good professional reputation. A solid contract should protect the license if it's not paid. I'm not 100% convinced I can charge a licence for design, but I'm just curious to see if anyone else has experienced the same situation. Thank you for your input.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 18:24
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    The appeal of licensing is that it costs less for the user, meaning you earn less on an individual level, but could resell to others. In this situation, I don't think that's in your best interests. Best to get paid for the actual work you put into it, IMHO.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


Traditionally I price a project based on it's usage not a license. If I were to design a project which would have many iterations over a span of products, then my pricing would reflect that usage as well as the time needed to actually complete the design. Art, in general, is priced for usage and not licensing. At least that's my experience.

It's fairly easy to track usage, while keeping track of who purchased what for how long and when that expires can be quite a chore. Not to mention what happens when the license expires, as Andrew commented. With usage rights, you can clearly see when something is outside the scope of permitted use, then call the legal team.

So I price project fee + unlimited usage for XXXX. Not for a license.

Trying to keep track of license periods and expirations is simply too difficult for me on a regular bases. In addition, if a client cares about design, they won't use the same design for more than a few years before it's revamped to a more updated appearance. So you'd be chasing your tail most of the time.

That being posted, back-end web structures and software are much easier to license since you can code in an expiration date and then cause things to stop functioning. You can't do that with design though. At least I've never found a solid, reliable way to make an image just stop working after a given date. :)

  • Thank you Scott. An excellent answer. You have raised some great points which I will take on board.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:39

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