What Is a Design Contract?
A graphic design contract is a legally binding document and agreement between you, the graphic designer, and your client.
Makes sense, right? A solid graphic design contract will detail all your requirements and list out your professional services. If you’re a specialist in typography, brand recognition, layout and print, or logo design, a contract is going to outline those particular responsibilities and make sure both parties understand exactly what it is you’re being hired to do.
As a graphic designer, you represent a business’s visual communication. So, a graphic design contract will represent your ability to visually communicate the business’s goals, as well as protect both parties' best interests.
Note: Create a well-designed and personal template in minutes without the help of Photoshop. Sign up to Bonsai now and get started.
What Should Be Included In a Graphic Design Contract?
Graphic design is subjective and open to interpretation. Even if you understand the brief perfectly, a client could turn around and decide that they don’t like your work. And if you don’t have a contract in place to clarify (and enforce) project scope, deadlines, revisions, termination, and payment terms from the outset, it could cost you precious time and money. This also happens in a web design business.
So, to avoid this and keep everyone on the same page, below you can find what to include when writing graphic design contracts.
Detailed descriptions of the work
Every polished and legally binding contract will need to establish two things first:
- Who is this contract between?
- What is the nature of the contract?
After this, you can get into the finer details of your freelance contract.
The cornerstone of every good graphic design contract is being specific and detailed. With this information, you'll exactly know what is required to undertake the design project.
For example, you may want to see the existing brand guidelines, interview key stakeholders, or even test the product or service to ensure that your design style fits with it.
Timeline for deliverables
Next, you'll need to outline the project description and go into detail about what it is you’ll be designing. If you’re working with a brief or design proposal, reflect this in the contract. List all the deliverables and the number of revisions you'll provide—that way there’s absolutely no ambiguity.
The last thing you want is to be vague with your language. If you are, the client can request additional mock-ups or extra services at the last minute without paying for them (a.k.a “scope creep”).
It also makes sense to note what’s out of scope in this section. If you’re tasked with designing a logo, you may want to explicitly state that this does not include a business card or letterhead design. That’s an extra service.
After determining the project scope, you should outline any key milestones. This should help you figure out the dates and deadlines associated with the graphic design project. Be clear around when something is due and what might affect this.
Every basic graphic design contract template will include a section for your payment details. Determining your rate and how you get paid is up to you. Some graphic designers will charge per hour or figure out a quote from the project scope. You may even want to structure a payment schedule so that the client pays you continuously and consistently.
For many graphic designers, their payment terms will include a non-refundable deposit. This can be from a few hundred dollars to a certain percentage of the total project cost.
Copyright (Intellectual Property) ownership and use
There are several copyright questions to answer for your graphic design contract:
- Who retains ownership of the design?
- When is ownership transferred?
- Can you still use the final design?
- Can I use the client's intellectual property?
Typically, the designer warrants a transfer of ownership with the full and final payment. However, you may wish to retain some reasonable control of the final design. You'd certainly want approval to use it as promotional material in your portfolio.
It's also a good idea to have the client's prior written consent to use their intellectual property. This could be considered confidential information, so discuss if you need a non-disclosure agreement.
Finally, you should clarify any reasons for the termination of the contract. This could be on a specific date, when the project ends, or due to other less favorable circumstances.
Mention that if either the designer or client wishes to end the contract early, then written notice must be provided in advance. If they decide to pull the plug on you when you're close to finishing the project, clarify that they're responsible for paying you in full. It's also a good idea to mention that you retain ownership (and copyright) of the work you've created in these circumstances.
Graphic Design Contract Sample
Sign up to Bonsai for free and choose the graphic design contract template. From there, you'll see every basic fundamental that goes into creating a solid contract for graphic designers.
What’s the Benefit of Using Bonsai, Instead of Editing Your Own Template?
There are a few key benefits:
- Your contract will be legally approved—all our contracts are vetted by lawyers
- It's faster. We guide you through the process, editing parts of the contract that are relevant to you
- Bonsai contracts can be electrically signed as soon as they're finished
- It saves you money. No need to hire a professional to audit your contracts. Bonsai has your back
It’s essential that you get the details in your contract right. In just a few minutes, you can easily create a contract with Bonsai.
How to Create a Graphic Design Contract With Bonsai
Creating a graphic design contract template from scratch takes time, effort, and know-how. Because each graphic design project will be unique, the ability to quickly customize your contract is vital.
Now, you could use a standard contract template, but they’re often tricky to edit and format—especially when time’s a factor. So, what’s the answer? One word: Bonsai.
Vetted by thousands of freelance designers and experienced contract lawyers alike, Bonsai includes everything we’ve mentioned above, and so much more. Simply select our graphic design contract template, add your personal and project details, and sign and send with just a few clicks.
Here’s how to make a Bonsai contract in 5 simple steps:
1. Select your template
2. Add your basic info
3. Add your scope of work
4. Add your payment info
5. Review and sign your final contract
Graphic Design Contract FAQs
How much should a graphic designer charge?
What you charge can depend on a whole range of things, including experience, where you’re located, or the client hiring you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average rate for a graphic design professional in 2020 was around $28 per hour. With the demand for graphic designers set to grow around 4% until 2026, you can be sure the average rate will follow suit.
Do I need a contract for a freelance graphic designer?
Yes, of course! Freelance graphic design is a business and if you want to be taken seriously, then you’ll need a solid graphic design contract. If you plan on hiring more than one freelancer, you can make life much easier for yourself by using a graphic design contract template from Bonsai.
Where do I find a freelance graphic designer?
There are plenty of resources you can use to find a freelance graphic designer. Posting a job description online, using a recruitment company, or even finding a freelancer on 99designs are just a few ways of finding the perfect designer to join your team.
Examples of graphic design contracts
Of course, we believe Bonsai has the best graphic design contract template out there, but sometimes it helps to see some examples of existing graphic design contracts for inspiration. Let's take a look at some: