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I am an office manager for a security company. When I was first hired on, my boss had a friend of a friend that he used to do the business cards and letterhead. They designed it, but used a logo that we already had! There was no contract and no file formats were discussed.

Well, now we need more work done and do NOT want to use this previous designer. When I asked him for the vector files for our design (which he did not originally create), he wants to charge us for those layouts. Is that right?

We don't care so much about the layouts for letterhead and business cards...we are going in a different direction anyway. We just need the logo (which is full color) in such a way that another designer can work with it and not have to start all over. We are in California, if that matters.

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    How did the stationery designer acquire the logo to begin with if they did not create it? Is that option still available? – Scott Apr 20 '15 at 20:18
  • Ugh...that was nearly 3 years ago. I believe that my boss showed him one of the patches and the designer was able to re-create it from there. The company had the logo before I got here, 3 years ago, and I have no idea who or how or what. I just know that the logo was ours and that this designer was working with a preexisting design. Sorry! – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:29
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    Yeah, if the designer recreated anything, they are within their rights to charge for the recreation if you want files. – Scott Apr 20 '15 at 20:30
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    Only you can determine what is "too much". If he feels it's worth $300 then that's his price. I can't tell you how to negotiate with him. $300 for a logo is pretty cheap though, especially if it's an established logo you want to retain and you have no other files. Count yourself lucky he's not asking for three times that. $50 for a stationery package would be absolutely dirt cheap and someone got a heck of a deal there. – Scott Apr 20 '15 at 20:36
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    Thank you so much, everyone, for all of your time and feedback. I've learned a lot and will be able to work much more intelligently with the future designer(s) we contract. Also, it helps me understand the pricing and what files we need to ask for up front! I know that my question may not be what you all usually discuss on this site, but I tried to Google what I needed and couldn't find anything! Thanks for letting me go straight to the source. I will probably recommend to my boss that we start from scratch and get all versions of vector and pic files up front, as well as black/white and color – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:40
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When contracts are involved, it's not uncommon for designers to add clauses that explain they will only hold on to source files for a period of X months. This gives them the convenience of easily making modifications and adjustments on the short term while making clear that they are not committed to keeping your files indefinitely.

Since there is no contract involved, you're unfortunately not in much of a bargaining position here. It sounds like the designer is not willing to do you any favors. You must realize that he's under no obligation to provide you with your files.

Since you do not work with this designer anymore, I would get a quote from another on the cost of re-vectorizing the logo. If it's less than the cost of paying the stationery designer, I'd consider going with that option. If the original source files are all that important to you, then I'm afraid you'll have to pay for the cost of providing those source files.

  • This is good information. I did not realize that they might toss the designs. Thank you. – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:43
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    You may not even need to re-vectorize the logo. If they ever gave you a PDF copy of your finished letterhead and/or business card, your new designer may be capable of extracting the vector logo from that very PDF. – Meir Deutsch Apr 21 '15 at 11:46
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I am an office manager for a security company. When I was first hired on, my boss had a friend of a friend that he used to do the business cards and letterhead. They designed it, but used a logo that we already had! There was no contract and no file formats were discussed. Well, now we need more work done and do NOT want to use this previous designer. When I asked him for the vector files for our design (which he did not originally create), he wants to charge us for those layouts. Is that right?

I'm a little confused by this paragraph because it sounds like you are going to the designer that did not create the logo and asking him for the source files. If he didn't create the logo why do you not have the artwork from the prior designer in the first place? Are you sure the designer is not under the impression you are asking for the source files of the work he has done? I can see why he could be asking you for more money if he was asked to re-create the logo for the last project because designers do not provide source files for free which is what it seems you're asking for.

We don't care so much about the layouts for letterhead and business cards...we are going in a different direction anyway. We just need the logo (which is full color) in such a way that another designer can work with it and not have to start all over.

If the designer re-created the logo for the project then he is entitled to compensation if he was placed in the same position as it would appear you're heading in which is you dont have the files and might need someone to re-create it. The details of this are missing so I only have what is indicated in your question. However, the issue in hand is there was no contract setup to begin with. If he is asking for money there may be a reason why and we do not know that reason and this question falls under a one sided issue.

The only thing I can advise is:

  • Pay him for the artwork/source files to the logo
  • Pay a new designer to re-create your artwork and have in the contract that you want the source files.
  • Dont loose said source files and make sure to have them saved in multiple places.
  • Hello, Darth...Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I do not know who originally designed the company logo. That was before I got here. And I do not know where those files are. So, now the easiest thing would be for us to pay the designer, who had to re-create the logo, for his source file. He only charged us $50 for the original layouts. But now want's $300 for the files! That seems a bit high. I do know that he did NOT design the logo, he traced it and arranged it onto the letterhead. Please let me know if I'm wrong...is that an appropriate price? – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:22
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If your company sent him the digital logo file, then your company should have a copy of the digital logo file.

If you're asking for someone else to take the time to said you said file since your company failed to retain it, asking for payment for said time/effort seems business-as-usual and nothing out of the ordinary.

Based on your clarifying comment:

who had to re-create the logo, for his source file. He only charged us $50 for the original layouts. But now want's $300 for the files! That seems a bit high

$50 is pretty cheap. If I had to guess, they may have just eaten the cost of rebuilding your logo for you on that original job (possibly in the hopes of you sending more work their way).

As such, it could be that they never truly got paid for that effort and, as such, aren't up for giving it to you without payment.

FYI, $300 for a logo is dirt cheap in general. That said, if your company never kept a digital copy of their logo in the first place, it may be time to consider getting a new logo altogether.

  • Hmmm, that is something to think about. Thank you, DA01 – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:41
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Realize a designer is a business. They live and die by the files they create. These files are a commodity and the lifeblood of survival.

If you provided the logo files to the stationery designer and they were 100% usable in their provided form and did not require any alteration, then I'd be of a mind to just send you the files if I still had them. If this is the case, the designer you are working with may be being a bit difficult. But that's their right. They are under no obligation to store your files beyond seeing a project completed as agreed upon. Designers are generally not backup services.

If any alteration was necessary to facilitate projects, such as turning the PNG you sent into a vector version of the logo so it would reproduce properly, then that work deserves compensation and I'd be unlikely to just "give" you files free of charge.

It is these sorts of details that are customarily ironed out in a contract. Without a contract you are left having to deal with what you can. If the designer in question is adamant about charging you for files, you need to access whether you feel the files in question are worth the price he/she is asking.

It is not unusual for any designer to place a fee on delivery of native files. You may be able to reduce the cost if you clearly explain that you only want the logo and are not asking for layout files.

Native files offer the unlimited ability to reuse, repurpose, and alter work. Having that ability is a worth a price tag.

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    "You may be able to reduce the cost if you clearly explain that you only want the logo and are not asking for layout files." Good point, I will keep that in mind when I call him. Thank you for your help! :) – gckps Apr 20 '15 at 20:45
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    "Designers are generally not backup services" -- I want that on a t-shirt. – Voxwoman Apr 21 '15 at 2:48

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