One design firm's jargon-free contract: 'Time is money. More time is more money'

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Chicago-based design firm Segura has streamlined their contract. The result is a simple, but effective, agreement that leaves out all pretentious jargon.

Here are their terms and conditions:

You give me money, I’ll give you creative.
I’ll start when the check clears.
Time is money. More time is more money.
I’ll listen to you. You listen to me.
You tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what you need.
You want me to be on time, I want you to be on time.
What you use is yours, what you don’t is mine.
I can’t give you stuff I don’t own.
I’ll try not to be an ass, you should do the same.
If you want something that’s been done before, use that.

If you want your way, you have to pay.
If you don’t pay, I have final say.

Let’s create something great together."

In case you’re wondering about the legality of this, Basecamp’s Founder and CEO Jason Fried remarks:

For those who will be quick to point out legal holes or missing protections, there are many ways to do business. One way is working with clients you trust — people who appreciate this approach to work. And if you guessed wrong, and someone fucks you, rather than pursuing legal remedies which cost even more time, money, and hassle, there’s an alternative: Take your losses, wash your hands, and don’t work with them again.



Seems legit.


This is a great summary of how designers should work and how clients should work with them.

And this is pretty much what I tell people when they ask me why I don’t go through an elaborate contract-signing process with my clients, with notarized copies, etc etc. For the small sums of money involved in quick one-off design projects, which are the bulk of my work, the time and money involved in taking someone to court would be self-defeating. When I get screwed over, which happens rarely, I move on quickly to another project to take up the slack and tell everyone I know to spread the word not to work with this person.


No. Its not that simple and here is why. I have had clients that I did design work for take the image files and then photoshop them. Recolor, add elements, alter and distort. NO!

What you use is yours AS IS…you don’t get to slap mouse ears on the logo I created for you, only to then point the finger at me when Disney finds out and sues your ass. no. no. no. You don’t get to recolor that logo into a garish imbalanced blend of colors that look like a unicorn threw up a rainbow on it of neon and pastel vomit, and then tell everyone I designed it for you. Final art and designs are just that…FINAL!

And I have lost friends because they refused to sign a design contract for me. They mutliple times screwed me over in the past, and when I put my foot down, they suddenly hemmed and hawed “Err…I don’t know that we can agree to that…We just don’t know what we are signing…I mean we aren’t lawyers.” Yeah, you didn’t seem to mind when I was doing your stuff for free.


And then three decades later they are the president?


One of the things I like about Creative Commons licensing is that you can specify whether you are only giving over rights for use “as is” or allowing derivative works.


I’ve had this too, and I agree that it’s poor client behavior, but I’ve found it’s an uphill battle. The majority of clients believe that once they’ve paid for art, it’s theirs to do with as they wish. I can guilt them into not paying me to do the work for them, but mainly I just make sure my name isn’t attached in any way.

I once discovered this package of “Deadliest Catch / Time Bandit” branded fireworks in a store in Tennessee. The art was taken from a CD cover I did for Capt. Andy. I can’t really prove it, so I can just be amused that someone used my Photoshop art for fireworks.


isn’t that covered by the “i can’t give you stuff i don’t own” line?


AKA: The Asshole Tax

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So the Flaming Balls Warning… it is not your watermark?


not in their minds it isn’t.

Sadly no, as that would be a completely awesome name for my design studio.


I’m curious why someone would have flaming balls as well as the necessity to shoot them.


Having watched that show, that particular boat is also chock full of flaming balls. So Meta.

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but their interpretation doesn’t matter, as long as the original contract covers it from a legal point of view.

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sigh you don’t get it methinks. has a more practical approach: a bifurcated TOS with legal content and plain-text “translation” side by side:


no, as a fellow designer, i DO get it. i just think you are overthinking it.


Yeah. That’s it. Ok.

I tried using a similar way-too-clever tactic for my contracts with a law firm that I do web design and maintenance work for. They weren’t having any of it. Too nebulous, they told me. This sort of thing only works when designers are doing work for other designers.