The Collective Legal Guide For Designers (Contract Samples)

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Rule number one for designers of all kinds: use a contract. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Should I use a service agreement? A retainer? A licensing contract? With the help of Docracy1, we collected the experience of many designers to provide a wide range of starting points for less experienced creative professionals, and to start a permanent free legal resource for the community.

Below you’ll find a collection of legal documents curated by our fantastic community. We are looking for your feedback and contribution to grow this collection. Suggest more items or add the contract you use for your own work. You might also want to have a look at our already published set of 10 basic agreements2 for designers.

Important notice: free sample documents and commentary are never a substitute to legal advice. Because every situation can be different, only a lawyer can answer your legal questions and assist you with a contract. The contracts below are useful examples, but they are sourced from a community of people and come without any guarantee, so treat them as general information. Smashing Magazine and the respective contributors of the documents disclaim all liability in connection to the use of these documents.

What Document Should I Sign With My Client?

If you created an icon set:

icon

If you are building a responsive website:

responsive

If you are starting a graphic design project:

getting_started

If you’re doing a small project with design and code:

small_project

If you’re doing a BIG project with design and code:

big_project

If you’re doing UX work:

interface

If you’re creating an infographic:

infographic

If a third party wants to use your work:

third_party

If you’re redesigning a website:

web_redesign

If you’re hiring a developer/designer to work on a project:

hiring_someone

If you’re hired as a freelance developer:

being_hired

If you’re making a mobile application:

mobile

If things go wrong:

help

Other helpful documents:

other_stuff

I Want To Add My Own Document

Add your document!35add yours3736

Eager to share your own experiences on documents? Please leave a comment, question or suggestion. Also, we’d love to include more documents in this article! Feel free to add yours3736! We’ll look at all documents which we receive and add the best ones to this guide!

Extra: Free “Legal Guide” Icon Set

You like the icons in this guide? Alvaro Casanova38, designer for Docracy.com, offers you to download the set for free39 (retina and standard).

Credits of image on front page: storebukkebruse40.

(vf) (ea)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.docracy.com
  2. 2 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/08/15/free-download-useful-legal-documents-for-designers-pdf/
  3. 3 https://www.docracy.com/7428/pictos-license-agreement
  4. 4 https://www.docracy.com/0ahgi98hms9/icon-designer-contract
  5. 5 https://www.docracy.com/649dkpe7g9/contract-killer-3
  6. 6 https://www.docracy.com/0b5y6lhl6me/contract-killer-3-en-espanol-
  7. 7 https://www.docracy.com/3152/designer-sample-contract
  8. 8 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/06/07/how-to-spot-a-sketchy-client-plus-a-contract-template/
  9. 9 https://www.docracy.com/5843/commissioned-illustration-offer-short-easy
  10. 10 https://www.docracy.com/0nitq2cla75/general-letter-of-agreement-for-graphic-design-1-2
  11. 11 https://www.docracy.com/7079/development-service-contract
  12. 12 https://www.docracy.com/0pqaqvgdhps/independent-contractor-agreement-designers-
  13. 13 https://www.docracy.com/8770/copyright-ownership-and-license-agreement
  14. 14 https://www.docracy.com/8574/design-and-development-contract
  15. 15 https://www.docracy.com/2811/standard-master-agreement-for-design-services
  16. 16 https://www.docracy.com/0eo1bqifkfk/acuerdo-de-desarrollo-de-software-
  17. 17 https://www.docracy.com/0li96li643c/contract-for-user-experience-design
  18. 18 https://www.docracy.com/0pwid2zc279/infographic-killer-3
  19. 19 https://www.docracy.com/8770/copyright-ownership-and-license-agreement
  20. 20 https://www.docracy.com/5598/website-identity-design-contract
  21. 21 https://www.docracy.com/7457/design-contract
  22. 22 https://www.docracy.com/6285/independent-developer-or-contractor-agreement
  23. 23 https://www.docracy.com/0rgkbvacolg/independent-contractor-agreement-template
  24. 24 https://www.docracy.com/5549/independent-contractor-agreement-developers-
  25. 25 https://www.docracy.com/5207/software-licensing-agreement
  26. 26 https://www.docracy.com/0xc71srp9cc/app-design-contract
  27. 27 https://www.docracy.com/4754/contract-for-mobile-application-development-services
  28. 28 https://www.docracy.com/6016/mobile-privacy-policy
  29. 29 https://www.docracy.com/0ra7gjjulo6/trademark-cease-desist-letter
  30. 30 https://www.docracy.com/7842/friendly-collection-letter
  31. 31 https://www.docracy.com/0uzihxju7jl/technology-consulting-contract
  32. 32 https://www.docracy.com/0i2fahvpv5t/statement-of-work-digital-advertising-services
  33. 33 https://www.docracy.com/7kjozeinrv/retainer-agreement
  34. 34 https://www.docracy.com/6931/music-license-agreement
  35. 35 https://www.docracy.com/docmanage/newdoc
  36. 36 https://www.docracy.com/docmanage/newdoc
  37. 37 https://www.docracy.com/docmanage/newdoc
  38. 38 http://www.yeahstyledg.com/
  39. 39 http://provide.smashingmagazine.com/Freebies/Legal_Guide_Icons.zip
  40. 40 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tusnelda/6140792529

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Veronica is the Director of Content for Docracy.com, a home for free, open source legal documents, socially curated by the communities that use them. She has a legal background and works closely with tech startups and freelance designers in Brooklyn, NY.

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  1. 1

    Dokuchaev Konstantin

    April 3, 2013 3:28 pm

    it would be great to have this in Russian

    • 2

      You should translate a version! The web is a two-way street, ya know. :)

    • 3

      If you are using Smashing Magazine, you really have to experience English in basics, anyway. And I think, it’s enough to understand this documents with your English level even if you are absolutelly beginner (google translate in help). With regard to have the same in Russian, first of all you must spent lot of money (due to people’s improbity) and may be be in prison for several days.

      I know this even though I’m Russian too.

      and great thanks to Veronica for that article :)

      • 4

        Just reading the document is not the case – you can’t use it right away… unless you’re proficient in legal-English and legal-YourCountry’sLanguage and can translate it correctly (but then again, if you can, then you’re a probably a lawyer and not a designer who reads SM).

        Great resource, BTW.

  2. 5

    Very important resources! Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. 6

    Wow! This is super-helpful! Great article!

  4. 7
  5. 8

    I have been looking for something like this for awhile. Thank you so much for such a comprehensive set of legal resources. It will be extremely helpful to me.

  6. 9

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! I’m in the process of revamping my contracts now and this was perfect timing! Thank you!!! (=^_^=)

  7. 10

    Adriano Ribeiro

    April 3, 2013 6:47 pm

    A Portuguese translation of Contract Killer 3: https://gist.github.com/adriano/4625657

  8. 11
  9. 12

    Melissa Eggleston

    April 3, 2013 9:09 pm

    So so so so helpful! Grateful for Smashing!

  10. 13

    This was very informative to read. As a student this will help me keep legal issues to a minimum if I want to do a project for someone. Thanks!

  11. 14

    perfect timing! thank you.

  12. 15

    FaNtAsTic !!! Thanks a million !!! I’ve faced issues when I worked freelance without having one of these.

  13. 16

    wow thank you Veronica

  14. 17

    We use docracy for all of our contracts … client, supplier – anything …. impartial and secure 3rd party repository which is of benefit for both the contractor and contractee.

    Excellent resource for any IT professional or services company.

  15. 18

    thanks for sharing this post with us. do you also have a source for these contracts in German?

    • 19

      +1 for german design contracts

    • 20

      I would also be very interested in german contracts because I am afraid we have very special laws and this contracts might not be sufficient/legal in Germany. Please tell me I am wrong if this is the case, I would be very happy since there are so many more contracts in english. :)

      • 21

        Veronica Picciafuoco

        April 9, 2013 11:10 pm

        There are no german contracts available yet, but we hope some german lawyer who is expert in the design industry will contribute something. As stated in the title, this is a “collective” list of documents, and I’ll add new ones when they are contributed!

  16. 22

    Is this Terms and Conditions are legally accept in all over the world in every countries.

    I mean say if i use one of this document and ask my client to sign into this and he lives in some other corner of the world. If there is a problem in payment or in any other case, is it possible for me to file a case against him based on this document? Will my country law will accept that to file case based on this document? Is this documents are flexible?

    Can anyone please clarify this!

    Thanks in advance.

    • 23

      Veronica Picciafuoco

      April 9, 2013 11:36 pm

      Because your local law might have special provisions, it is always recommended to double-check the contract with a local lawyer. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that any contract is better than no contract. Even if some parts of the contract are held invalid or unenforceable because they contrast with local law, as long as you have the essential elements of the deal in written form (names, object, price) you have evidence. Also, remember that the applicable law can be chosen by the parties. For example, if you’re working with a U.S. client it is likely that they’ll prefer the contract is governed by U.S. law. Foreign judges can usually rule over the case case anyway, using the applicable law. Enforcement (i.e. getting paid even with a favorable ruling) is a whole different story, but this is out of my expertise.

  17. 24

    Excellent resource Veronica! Enforcement of a contract will depend on your specific province (or state). As such, it would be advantageous to review your contract of choice with a lawyer (disclaimer: I’m not one, but I have had our AoR, Project and Consultant contracts drawn up by one).

    Also, what’s everyone’s experience with international contract enforcement? Particularly from a intellectual property standpoint as well as collections?

    • 25

      Veronica Picciafuoco

      April 9, 2013 11:06 pm

      You’re right Adam, it’s definitely recommended to double check with a lawyer – most of the documents are compatible with multiple jurisdictions, but there are state-by-state differences that are up to you to check. We noticed that when the documents come from lawyers, they’re usually very responsive if somebody asks questions in the comments.

      As per international contract enforcement, that’s something very expensive, and it takes a long time. Unless the contract is worth several thousand $$$, it is simply not worth it. The best remedy is always prevention: try to work with reputable, professional people. Break out payment in milestones to minimize the risk of becoming a long, long term creditor of somebody from another jurisdiction.

  18. 26

    This is great! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  19. 27

    Charlotte Clark

    April 6, 2013 6:37 pm

    Veronica-this is great & timely! To reiterate the points made by Adam, I would really appreciate any signposting to articles/guidance on international enforcement re: intellectual property/ collections too. Is anyone able to recommend?

    • 28

      Veronica Picciafuoco

      April 9, 2013 11:28 pm

      Hi Charlotte,

      As I said to Adam, international collection is an ugly beast, and in most of the cases best left to professionals (lawyers or collection agencies). Prevention is your friend. If dealing with new clients, consider using safer methods of payment, like escrow account or letter of credit. And of course ask for a deposit!

  20. 29

    thanks, sounds both fun and easy :) not all i need is a client willing to sign the contract :)

  21. 30

    Thanks for this. The legal contract side of freelancing can be a total headache, will definitely bookmark this and pass on to friends and colleagues.

  22. 31

    Great Article for sharing. Thank you so much.

  23. 32

    I am a newbie web designer just getting my feet wet and this is super-helpful ! While I appreciate the efforts of others who have this in a paid format or eBook, Im bootstrapping and cant really afford to spend anything on legal templates. You guys just saved me about $50.00 ! Thank you!

  24. 33

    This right here is exactly why I love Smashing Magazine. Super useful article, thanks a lot!

  25. 34

    Which contract would be best for a logo design project? I was thinking the Short Commissioned Illustration Offer. Is this right? There is custom illustration involved in the logo. Thanks in advance!

  26. 35

    Thanks for these. I’m sure others would agree, the difficulty in writing up a good contract is making sure to protect both parties, but without confusing the hell out of your client with lengthy, difficult to understand language.

  27. 36

    thanks guys. You’ve saved me a whole lot of brain cracking time.wooooh

  28. 37

    Thanks. I really appreciate the resource

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