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 Docracy, 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 agreements 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.
Further Reading on SmashingMag:
- Useful Legal Documents For Designers (PDF/DOC)
- Freelance Contracts: Do’s And Don’ts
- The Bare Bones That Every Freelance Contract Should Have
- Dealing With Clients Who Refuse To Pay
What Document Should I Sign With My Client?
If you created an icon set:
- Icon License Agreement Drew Wilson’s license for the Pictos Icon Set, with popular standard terms.
- Icon Designer Contract A very basic contract for commissioned icon project.
If you are building a responsive website:
- Contract Killer 3 The famous plain-English contract by Andy Clarke, now with specific language on device testing.
- Contract Killer en Español A Spanish translation of Contract Killer 3, by Spanish designer Daniel Martinez.
If you are starting a graphic design project:
- Sample design contract Speider’s graphic design contract, with bonus negotiation tips.
- Short Commissioned Illustration Offer A pro-artist shortform contract for freelance illustrations.
- General Letter of Agreement for Graphic Design A thorough contract with some handy plain-language highlights to help the clients understand the terms.
If you’re doing a small project with design and code:
- Development Service Contract: One of the simplest contract you might find, very flexible, too.
- Independent Contractor Agreement (for Designers) Ross Kimbarovsky’s annotated “contract for designers who hate contracts”. Narrated in first person.
- Copyright Ownership and License Agreement A licensing agreement for numerous types of creative work. Fixed fee, limited non-exclusive license.
If you’re doing a BIG project with design and code:
- Design and Development Contract A classic design contract, heavily indebted to the AIGA Standard Master Agreement, that is for even bigger projects.
- Acuerdo de Desarollo de Sofware A handy Spanish version of the contract above.
If you’re doing UX work:
- Contract for User Experience Design A version of Contract Killer, customized for UX work.
If you’re creating an infographic:
- Infographic Killer 3 A verison of the Contract Killer for commissioned infographics.
If a third party wants to use your work:
- Copyright Ownership and License Agreement A super-simple assignment agreement for any sort of intellectual property (code, design, copy, etc.). Tip: better sign this only after money is in the bank.
If you’re redesigning a website:
- Website + Identity Design Contract A comprehensive branding/redesign agreement, with useful annotation to help you in possible negotiations.
- Design Contract A simple contract for freelance Web projects.
If you’re hiring a developer/designer to work on a project:
- Independent Developer Agreement A balanced independent contractor agreement, written from the point of view of the hiring company.
- Independent Contractor Agreement A catch-all independent contractor agreement.
If you’re hired as a freelance developer:
- Independent Contractor Agreement (Developers) Ross Kimbarovsky’s “contract for software developers who hate contracts”.
- Software Licensing Agreement If you decide to licensing your code rather than assign it, this document is very helpful.
If you’re making a mobile application:
- App Design Contract
- Contract for Mobile Application Development Services
If things go wrong:
- Cease & Desist Letter A handy C&D letter if someone is “stealing” your intellectual property.
- Friendly Collection Letter A friendly but firm reminder for clients who don’t pay on time.
Other helpful documents:
- Technology Consulting Contract Generic technology contract that includes an overview of the project, including estimated time, cost, and team members
- Statement of Work - Digital Advertising ServicesSOW A SOW for agency projects.
- Retainer Agreement A useful template if you’re a designer who works on a retainer fee.
- Music License Agreement A licensing agreement to use copyrighted music in a certain application.
I Want To Add My Own Document
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 yours! We’ll look at all documents which we receive and add the best ones to this guide!
Extra: Free “Legal Guide” Icon Set
Credits of image on front page: storebukkebruse.