Why won’t my designer release the open files to me?

by | Sep 20, 2017 | Graphics |

This is a touchy subject amongst designers, agencies and clients, and has been for many a year. Just the mere mention of open files brings a feeling of unease. If you are lucky, you may not have had to ask or been asked this question: “Please can you release open files of my artwork.”

Generally, this question comes up when you are parting ways with your design agency or freelancer and at this point, the relationship between the two parties is fragile as is. Let’s be honest here, no one really wants to burn bridges as they part ways, but there will be some tough questions being asked from both sides in this transitional phase.

Many clients will feel a bit ‘agro’ when their designer explains that the open files are not included in the final price and are not considered part of the Final Deliverables. Based on this, we wanted to put the record straight, so to speak, and unpack why the designer will not handover the open files. Hopefully this helps us all be on the same page and possibly avoid any uncomfortable situations.

1.You’re paying for the final product, not the tools to create that product.

What you pay for is what you get. When you pay for a flyer, then you will get a final hi resolution print ready flyer. You are not paying for the drafts, revisions, tools or layers used in creating that flyer. Don’t forget about the fonts and images used as well. If you buy a car, you are not paying for all the patents, research, technology, and trade secrets. You are buying a complete and final car.

2.Third Parties are involved and need to be considered.

Designers purchase various licenses for fonts, images and brushes to ensure we have access to the best libraries and resources on the web. This is what helps designers create masterpieces. Since designers do not own the rights to these tools, it’s wrong and unethical to release them to a client.

3. Do you have the right Software?

If (and it’s a big if) you own the correct hardware and software to handle the open file, what are the chances you actually know what to do with the file once you have opened it? It takes years to learn the ins and outs of these complex software programs. Why do you even want that type of headache?

4. What about file types?

Often designers will use multiple software and files to create a finished product. From, TIFFS, Jpegs and PDF’s to .eps and .indd files, (as you can see it gets complicated) as well as multiple print versions. Would you know which is the correct file to use with bleed, crop and trim marks? Chances are you will not and cause even more heartache and stress in your life. What happens if you don’t have a specific font on your computer and your artwork automatically changes to a default font (which you don’t pick up)? By now, the incorrect flyer has gone to print and your deadline is tomorrow – you get the idea.

5.You have all the above covered!

So you have the software and know how to do it yourself, then why are you hiring a professional? If you don’t have the time, then the project will be a work-for-hire situation and then the above applies accordingly. If you just want a designer to create the master file and then you can edit it accordingly in the future, you are taking the earnings of the derivative or future works of the project away from the designer and that’s just not nice 🙁

If you are in this situation, most designers will not have an issue releasing the open files, and will actually help you obtain the required licenses if need be (If they are decent enough). But be prepared to pay 300% of the original price to transfer these open files and rights. This is to cover the loss of future income generated from that design and also to cover the time needed to handle the transfer.

Hopefully we have shed some light on this dark topic. At the end of the day, for whatever reason clients and designers part ways, both parties really just want is to get on with business, part amicably and learn from the experience.

Have you had an experience like this? We would love to hear your comments.

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