Owning Your Designs

I worked with a client whose website was originally designed by another designer, who also had designed some marketing pieces for her business. Since the time the website and print materials were created, the designer had moved away and was not responding to emails or phone calls; plus, the people who were in control of access to her website were doing likewise. My client wanted to make changes to her site and her brochure but she didn’t have possession of or access to the original files.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation to be in—knowing that the files should be your property because you paid for them, but in reality, they are out of your reach and control. This is NOT how it should be.

Here’s a list of things you should request from your designer and keep for your records:

For your website:

  • Your domain name account information—registrar’s name, account number/username and password
  • Domain name expiration date (it’s very important not to let your domain name expire!!!)
  • Your hosting company’s name, your account username and password
  • FTP access username and password
  • You may not need a copy of the site files, but you should make sure that the designer has a backup copy of the complete site. If it is a WordPress site, make sure that automatic backups are being done on the server by the hosting company. Since websites are subject to change, it’s not really necessary for you to have a copy.
  • Any original artwork that was created for your site, in its native application. You might not be able to open/view the art, but if you need it modified in the future, having the original files is advantageous.

For printed materials:

  • You can request that the designer give you the original files on CD or send them to you via email (if they’re small enough). You should know what application they were created in. You won’t be able to open the files without having the same app, but you should be able to hand them off to a new designer, if necessary.
  • If the new designer doesn’t have the app they were created in, this may be a caution flag as to your choice of designers. Any designer worth her salt will have the major design applications (i.e., Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.
  • PDFs are NOT original files! They are like a nicely baked cake—it looks good and tastes good but you no longer have the separate ingredients that went into it.

My clients are always able to request the source files and access information for any project I create for them and I will be glad to accommodate them, even if they have chosen to go with a different designer. It’s all about being a professional.

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