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I have a client from hell, she wants my original .ai files and that is fine, however she downloaded Ai CC and is now complaining that "things don't show up right"... this is a map and has about 70 layers and is very complex.

I outlined the fonts, I embedded all the files, I packaged the project but still she complains that I am doing something to prevent her from seeing the file properly. She claims that some the "houses" I created and saved into my symbols pallet and used on the map are not showing up in the right color. I am trying to tell her that it is a settings issue or a layer issue, but if I flatten the layers she won't be able to modify at all. I provided 100% vector PDFs but she isn't happy.

Advice? What would you do? What would you do to the file before you send it? Help this is the job I have only heard about from others :)

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    I'd never send .ai files to my client, period. Same goes for .psd, and .indd. Don't send source files to anyone but other designer pros. – Vincent Jun 25 '15 at 15:50
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    unfortunately it is in our contract for me to supply these files. – wilma Jun 25 '15 at 17:53
  • then, I'm sorry, it's a bad contract. By the way, welcome to GD.SE, wilma! If you have any questions about the site, have a look at the help center or feel free to ping one of us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation reaches 20. Keep contributing and have fun! – Vincent Jun 25 '15 at 18:09
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    I don't think sending source files is terrible. Many clients have been burned by designers who bail unannounced and can't get their assets updated. Having source files in an archive gives them a solution to move on. When they want to get in and play with your files because they don't trust you, you've got problems. – plainclothes Jun 25 '15 at 18:40
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    She will never be able to modify the file because she can't use the program correctly. If she is accusing you of sabotage, get out. – Yorik Jun 25 '15 at 19:06
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See ya

If you've been paid for the scope of work completed, walk away.
If you haven't, you might want want to walk away anyway.

You're not likely to get to the bottom of the file issue without investing a lot of time. She doesn't know how to use Illustrator -- she just downloaded it! It sounds to me like you're not likely to get paid for the time it will take to teach her what she's doing.

Send her a PDF (with all information retained) and never speak to her again.

When an agency wants your files so they can use them to create other deliverables, all's well. When an organization wants your files so they can be "in control", that's a bad sign.

Clients are fairly predictable. This client thinks they'll be able to find cheaper work elsewhere and they want to keep your work to pass off to the next poor schmuck. Don't be that schmuck.

5

I have a client from hell, she wants my original .ai files and that is fine, however she downloaded Ai CC and is now complaining that "things don't show up right"...

Can you get her to define "what doesn't show up right?" I would suggest you ask her for screenshots.

this is a map and has about 70 layers and is very complex. I outlined the fonts, I embedded all the files, I packaged the project but still she complains that I am doing something to prevent her from seeing the file properly.

I dont understand why you agreed to supply the AI files on a complex design. I hope you have limitations in your contract what can be used with the AI file.

She claims that some the "houses" I created and saved into my symbols pallet and used on the map are not showing up in the right color.

I would ask her to send a screenshot example and ask her if her computer is color calibrated.

I am trying to tell her that it is a settings issue or a layer issue, but if I flatten the layers she won't be able to modify at all. I provided 100% vector pdf's but she isn't happy.

If you haven't been able to solve the issue you may have to meet her in person if you want the issue corrected.

Advice?

Cut the rope, let the boat sink and use it as a learning tool that you never supply the original AI file and expect the client to be a designer.

What would you do?

If you want the client in the future go to the client's house or location to resolve the issue and show them what to do. If you do proceed with this approach all future work will have the expectation of all source files.

What would you do to the file before you send it?

I would NEVER send source files, clients dont need source files unless they are an agency or printer and that's depending on limited situations and is a case by case instance. I would send a flattened PDF or ask her where and who is going to use this and send it to them because it sounds like she doesn't know what she is doing.

Help this is the job I have only heard about from others :)

I guess you can mark this in the diary of I "once did this" and learned my lesson.

  • Even sending files to printers - they can deal with PDFs if they are created with "preserve Adobe Illustrator editing capabilities" enabled. Unless the printer specifically requests the source files, I don't send them either, and I don't give them to clients. Frequently, the clients, if they do have the software, don't have the latest versions and can't open my files anyway. – Voxwoman Jul 15 '15 at 18:12
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Sending a client source files is fine, provided you've adjusted pricing accordingly. Native files should never be "free".

Related Questions:
Delivering a graphic design to a customer
How do you explain the value of native files to an uneducated client?

My contract clearly states: (I'm paraphrasing)

In the event native files are delivered, files will be delivered in the current working state used by designer in the application version in use by designer at the time of creation. Due to licensing issues, no typefaces (fonts) will be provided. Internet URLs where typefaces may be purchase can be supplied upon request. Be aware, some typefaces may be costly.

Absolutely no warranty or support regarding native files is implied or expressed. Client is responsible for ensuring they have adequate software and hardware to operate the host application, in addition to the necessary EDUCATION and EXPERTISE to edit or otherwise utilize the native files. At no time will software training or technical support be provided. Files are provided on a 'as is' basis.

Any deviation from the above must be expressly stated in writing and agreed upon by both parties.


If you agree to provide files, you also must get the client to agree to the fact you won't be "tech support" because they want the files. Unless you specifically point this out before agreeing upon file delivery, you are almost always going to get those "this isn't working for me" calls.

As for "after the fact" you are in for a hard conversation or swallowing a lot of time and effort. You need to make a choice...

  • if you really want to keep the client you'll have to suck it up and start providing tech support and software training, because that's what they are asking for.
  • If this is just too far above and beyond for you, you'll need to explain to the client that you agreed to deliver files, not endless support on how to use those files. They won't be happy.

That's the cold hard truth. Delivering actual files in only a single part of the exchange. I've found it takes extra stipulations to make it clear to clients that just because you created the files, if they want them, they are not also getting unlimited support for them.

  • I am adding that clause into my contracts. THANK YOU. – Voxwoman Jul 15 '15 at 18:14
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    Just fix the typos @Voxwoman :) – Scott Jul 15 '15 at 20:22
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You should ask hew what version of Ai she is using and export the file according to what they said. Now furthermore you can add a Pdf that saves illustrator editing abilities and send them that as well, I find that it opens best no matter the Illustrator version.

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    Yes, I did provide her the pdf, but I guess she isn't happy with it. I told her today that this is the best I can do and that if she wants me to teach her .ai we could do that for additional fee :) thanks for the support. – wilma Jun 25 '15 at 17:12
  • @wilma That's a good way to handle this, selling her training. If she isn't a designer, it's normal she can't know what to do with the file, and each designer also work differently. You can always offer her to create different files with the elements she needs "isolated", as at extra fee, so she can learn how to use Illustrator and modify some things herself. – go-junta Jun 25 '15 at 19:10
  • @wilma so she wasn't happy with the file because it was an AI file, or because of some arbitrary design change she wanted to make and didn't want to pay you for? Either way +1 – elCavador Jul 16 '15 at 2:01
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It's ok to send the .ai file if that's in your contract and some clients want to keep an archive or to modify the files themselves. But they usually pay for this too. In this case, you can see your editable as a template. Not sending the .ai doesn't protect you anyway, most vector files can be opened by any designer if they really want to; they won't have access to your structure but that's not what has the most value in a vector file usually.

Each designer works differently, and your idea of selling training is a good one. You can also offer her to "simplify" the files; it may not be simple to you and may not be performance oriented, but it will be easier to her. If she wants this, you can charge a conversion fee.

Yes, she will "destroy" your file and not work the same way as you do but that's not really something you can control, and she might come back to you later to fix it too when she realizes it's not that easy. If you think flattening the layers or sending her these "little houses" isolated in another file will help her, just do it (for a fee.) I guess you already made it clear to her that learning how to use Illustrator properly can take years; if it was easy, she would have done the job herself from the start. It's normal to sometime isolate elements or simplify a file for a client, and you can sell it to her a as beginner's set or template.

Ask for screenshots, sometimes clients describe an issue but they don't use the right terms. The "it doesn't display right" can be used for so many different issue!

On your contract, if clients ask for editable files like this, you can add something requiring specific requirements (ex. no use of symbols, pc fonts only, spot colors, links embedded or not, etc.); if they don't name them, you can prepare the files as you want and then charge an extra for the modifications. It needs to be precise requirements, not just "lets me modify the file."

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You say providing the source files is in the contract. Well, that can be very broad. Is the client a designer?

  • Was your project for a finished product? Like a press-ready pdf file, and the source files are just an additional bonus? You just send the source files. Period.

  • Was your contract making a template to specifically be provided as it? You probably had a bad plan at the beginning. Having 70 layers is probably not a good option.

If you have this case, you probably need to review what the layers are, and if it can be reduced a little. Get rid of non-usable layers and move objects accordingly.

The color issue can be just a configuration file. You can charge the client for some coaching on calibrating the monitor... But, are you sure the color is correct in the first place?

Ask for a screenshot and correct specific issues if that is the case.

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She is probably viewing it under a different color profile or none. I've had similar issues with older ai files.

You might try assigning a color profile to the doc under Edit > Assign Profile. Also go to Edit > Color Settings and choose the appropriate profile to work with. I usually stick with Web/Internet, Prepress or General Purpose.

You could even save a profile and send it to her to load. I believe this should create a more accurate color representation. Read the help section, I think it is supposed to be managed from Bridge. This is supposed to keep colors and profiles consistent across Adobe applications.

Good Luck, -Andy

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