You want what when?

It was a recipe for potential disaster with a client. A recent occurrence:
Our client had finally picked up a collection for an upcoming catalog after a week’s worth of back and forth modifications with the artist. We all allowed ourselves a big sigh of relief – till the next shoe dropped: they wanted the production work done asap, by the artist, and it had to be uploaded in the next few days. But her booked-up schedule would not allow it. The project was in danger of falling apart but we managed to work out a compromise by splitting the work with the client and getting it done.
Production work is the layout and finalizing of all aspects of the product, sometimes to fit customer templates, to make files that are factory (print, sculpt, cast, whatever the process is) ready. Depending on what the process is, this can involve fronts, backs and sides, borders and backgrounds, even 360 degree views which include tops and bottoms.  Layers, bleeds, design positioning, Pantone color matching – it is very detailed and time consuming, and it has to be done right. And it was rarely done by the artist, but instead was the domain of the production people at the factory – of course that was then and this is now and my, how things have changed.
It’s important to know what will be involved in delivering files for a project before you make a commitment to do it. Not many companies require this type of “production ready” art, but it does seem to be popping up more often as client staffs have been reduced and manufacturers continue to look for ways to cut costs. We got caught up in the aforementioned situation because they had changed their policies and somehow we missed it. (It really makes you appreciate those manufacturers who will take the art “sketched on a napkin” and run with it…) The question becomes not only WILL you have time to do it, but also will it be WORTH your time to do it? Give that some consideration, because laying out the production files for a giftware line, or a paper tableware collection, or even a line of greeting cards can be complicated, tedious work – it can take many hours to get it right and would cost hundreds of dollars to hire it out.
So just how much are those royalties going to be?
1 reply
  1. BJ Lantz
    BJ Lantz says:

    EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would say “Don’t get me started on this subject!” But, well, you already have 🙂

    I know “that was then, this is now”, but this is something that sticks in my craw. It is just one more thing to diminish what you can actually make from a deal. And, as you pointed out, it IS tedious and time-consuming (and let’s not forget that the client is often STILL directing what they want and asking for changes at this stage), so not only are you basically doing a job (and it IS its own job) for free that they used to PAY somebody to do, you are losing time that you could potentially be creating new art.

    Think about this ~ if the advance is say $1,000 and you put at least $1,000 worth of production work time into getting those files just the way they want them (and yes, you often will spend that long, even if you are an experienced graphic designer) and the deal never pays past the advance (sometimes the don’t); or not much past…. You have essentially been paid to do the production work to put YOUR art on THEIR product. Hmmmmm….

    I recently walked away from a deal over this. The client wanted me to take a very low royalty percentage, a low advance AND do all the production work. I knew from experience it just wasn’t going to be worth it. The good news is I turned around and licensed the same collection to somebody who, while not paying an advance, paid a much higher royalty percentage and didn’t require anything but my files ~ they did the production.

    It’s great that you point this situation out, Jim, especially for those new to the industry to consider before jumping at a deal ~ the problem is, the lack of experience in what to expect a deal to potentially pay and weigh whether it is worth it or not only comes with time in the biz…the biz that changes hourly…


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