Every now and then I take the time to give my two cents to any question a fellow graphic designer might have via a LinkedIn group that I’m a part of, i.e. Graphic Designer Lounge. This time around, the question is about what should you do when a client uses one of your designs without your permission. Here is what I said based on my own experiences.
When it involves intellectual property (IP), it is imperative that your client understands that any logo design or mark has to be considered in the pricing of the project. In some instances there are people who have zero knowledge of the implications of using IP without having paid for it. In your particular instance I think your client assumed because he paid for the business card design with an accompanying image, perhaps in his mind he now feels he would automatically become the owner.
I think going forward, it is always important to have clarity on the expectations of your clients when it comes down to graphic design projects. You want to ensure you are both on the same page and all the questions that need to be asked get asked to avoid situations like these. Part of your job as a graphic designer is to educate the client.
You need to ensure that clients understand that brand development begins with a logo design and everything else (business cards, letterheads, brochures, etc.) are built on this. A logo design should be treated as a separate project altogether and the charges be made accordingly. This ensures that once you have gone through the logo design process with any client and all native files and file formats (Jpeg, GIF, TIFF, EPS, etc.) is completely handed over.
As a rule of thumb, during the process of sharing concepts with clients, you should ensure the design is watermarked with your own business logo or name with the copyright symbol (©) displayed. It will give your creative work (or intellectual property) some amount of protection in case the client tries to use it without your permission.
All the best.
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