Charging for additional use of a design


New Member
Hi there, I could do with some advice on handling a bit of a situation with a client. It may be nothing but I want to get my facts straight before I contact him.

Basically, I recently designed an A5 'recipe card' for a chef. I noticed the artwork has since been used elsewhere i.e. on billboards in New York, without my knowledge. The original brief was for one purpose (which incidentally hasn’t been paid for yet!) and no mention of further use was made at the time. I do trust this client as I have been working with him for a while and I think it’s just naivety on his part but still feel his actions were a bit cheeky if I'm honest. Am I right in thinking I own the rights to the design and any additional use should be charged for? I would be very grateful for any advice on this matter before contacting the client again. I don't want to offend him in any way but on the other hand if I don't want to be taken for a ride, you know?

Thanks in advance for any advice :icon_smile:
Hello, welcome to the forum.

As long as he hasn't paid for the work, you certainly own the rights. Whether you own the rights after he has paid? Whether he has a right to use the design on anything else other than the A5 recipe card, to which it was originally intended? And, whether there should be any other additional charge? All of these questions should be easily answered in the contract which you both should of signed before commencing the work. That's what it all comes down to, the contract.

My feeling is there possibly was no contract signed, as you say you trust the client and have been working with him a while. Which would be a big mistake. An even bigger error you have made is by the sounds of it, not only have to handed over the files before receiving payment, you have given him the original(s) to which he was able to have scaled from an A5 card, up to a massive NY billboard!?

If my assumptions are correct, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with your client, let him hear your point of view and hope you can both come to an amicable agreement, with regards to extra payment and anything else you desire. Since you have known him a while hopefully you have built up a good relationship and can resolve this issue to both of your satisfactions. If not, hope that you receive the original agreed payment and have this be a lesson learnt.
I've never heard of a "one off use design" where the only place it can be used is in A5 or other size for a specific purpose.

Usually, they pay for the "branding" which includes colours, graphic placement, general layout and look of something... then they can use your design (branding) on any product they desire anywhere in the world.

I'd have a word with the client and ask them to consider a branding package that would allow them to use the designs in any medium anywhere in the world.
Thanks for your advice CLBH, much appreciated. That is a very good point you make about the scaling up actually, because all I have given him is a high res PDF!! So either the billboards are very pixelated or it's a hoax and these billboards are fake. The client did agree to the T & Cs but there is no mention of reproduction or additional use so this may be something I need to include in my small print. I'm not worried about the client not paying though as we have an agreement and he is usually very reliable. I'm sure if I have anything to worry about with regards to the additional use of my designs we can resolve it amicably as you say. Thanks :)
Thanks hankscorpio, something else to consider, although I'm not sure if this particular job is a one-off or if the chef is likely to continue with further branding. Cheers R
Billboards are pixelated as they are made to be viewed at a long distance so you don't notice the pixelations. Even with that being said, I am surprised he was able to scaled up an A5 to a billboard size without it being overly pixelated even at a distance! It must have been a very, very high quality PDF lol.
I wouldn't have an issue with this at all. You designed an A5 promotional item that they're using as-is (albeit scaled up and in front of a bigger audience) and I don't see that it's any different from putting a copy of your .pdf on a website (which presumably you'd be fine with). Maybe it's just me but I've always felt that the price of a design ought to reflect the input rather than the intended use (unless it's something to be re-sold at a profit, in which case you need to get your contract terms in order).
I'd have to agree with all the above, in future having a contract will eliminate grey areas like this, but in the meantime it's really not going to harm you as long as you get paid for the original work you did.

Put it this way; if the client contacted you and said "Hey Racoon, you know that A5 recipe card you designed? I want to use it on a billboard, could you scale it up to XYZ and send it across to me? No need to change the design at all, it's perfect as it is..."

What would charge for this?? Would you charge for doing it? Personally I'd be inclined to resize and send it with compliments in the interests of good client relations; confident that having the client's best interests at heart will no doubt lead to future work + glowing referrals.

On the flip side, if a client took something I designed and sold it as a template on a crowd sourcing site - this would be an unacceptable breach of contract, and taking me for a ride!
That's not really the point, although it's a valid angle.

The fact is it's an entered contract for a piece of artwork to meet an ends, an A5 printed menu.

It's not the fact that you will you use it for xyz, but the fact that it's not being used as contracted for.

You see this all the time with stock images, for example contracted with say Getty Images, you select your license regime, and if Getty find you outside this they will act on it.

There's also another flip side, think of designer Carolyn Davidson... some say who?... others say oooh Nike.

Carolyn Davidson designed Nike's logo, for $35. After many iterations of the logo nonetheless, and Phil Knight said he liked it but didn't love it.

It turns out that Knight paid the invoice, but then gave here an expensive nike swoosh ring and stocks in the company.

On the other hand, Paul Rand had to fight with Steve Jobs to get 100k off him. Jobs wanted a few designs for 100k and if he liked one he'd pay. Rand said he'd design the logo, but only one, and if Jobs liked it he'd pay 100k if he liked it or didn't use it at all ...

At the end of the day, it's up to the contract, and how nice the guy is behind the work...
If I were renowned as a designer the world over and sought out by someone like Steve Jobs to design a brand identity from the ground up, I'd expect a nice payday. Similarly, if I were a student doing a favour for a member of the faculty, I'd expect considerably less (although it's gratifying to note that Nike took care of the designer). A layout for a recipe card, however, is NOT a brand identity: as such, it doesn't require the same kind of considered development and design input and it isn't intrinsically tied-up in a company's fortunes. If the chef in question builds a massive global recipe card business on the back of the design, I might feel a bit of a fool for not taking the time to draw up a tighter contract; that, however, is the world's biggest 'if', which I'd be perfectly comfortable trading-off against not feeling a fool by trying to deny him the right to stick it on a poster unless he coughs up a larger fee.
Can I just ask if anyone else is aware of the various sites that allow you to upload your picture and have it superimposed into a billboard? Is it possible that your client has done this?.. Try this website.

I really cant imagine that ANY print firm would be willing to scale up from an a5 jpeg to billboard size, each pixel would have to be over 6mm tall!
You're preaching to the choir, mon amigo!

I had a client take lo-res A5 sample posters and blow them up to A2 size and hung them on his cafe wall... I spotted it by accident when walking by it one day. He never did pay.

Hence, I always have a tight contract and get 50% up front, no matter what.