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I worked with a logo designer to create a logo for my small business. He came up with several designs that I didn't think were anywhere near on par with what he presented in his portfolio, and in the end, we just couldn't agree on a design.

I understand why he is pitching the final design he came up with. It makes rational sense, but I don't like the design; it's not inline with the image I want to project, and I'm not going to use it.

I paid him 50% up front for this project. The terms were informal through an email: "I charge 50% up front, and 50% after project completion." Do I have to pay him the remaining 50% for a logo I'm not going to use? I haven't yet received the final vector images from him, so I couldn't use it if I wanted to.

I'm not as worried about the legal implications (there was no contract), but the ethical implications. I know if I were him I would want to get paid, but I'm on a shoestring budget and need to hire someone else to do the job now. Do I pay him the remainder?

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  1. Don't assume that there is no contract. Your emails and verbal communications may be construed as one;
  2. It appears, based on your question, that you didn't define 'project completion.' If it was agreed that 'Acceptance of final design by the client and delivery of vector images to the client' constitutes 'project completion,' then, technically, you don't have to pay - as the test for 'project completion' has not been met.
  3. From an ethical point of view, your budget constraints are no fault of the graphic designer - it appears he/she did their best - they deserve to get paid.

That said, you can always negotiate and come to an agreement - let the graphic designer know you appreciate their efforts, but cannot use their work, and if they'd settle for 25% instead of 50% - under the agreement that you will not use their work in production.

Graphic designers should always quote in terms of 'number of versions or concepts' because design is a very subjective and creative process - it could take months, if ever, for a client to be happy with a logo, and where does that leave a graphic designer in terms of being able to put food on the table? However, graphic designers do this day in and day out - they should know how to use a contract.

In terms of an ethical compromise, I did exactly this in similar situation with a Flash designer - they were talented, diligent and professional - but it became clear that they could not pull off the job to the acceptance of the client.

We discussed the situation - and I told the designer that the current circumstances were not their fault, I could not continue with the them and I would like an amicable resolution.

I asked what price would satisfy him - he told me, I paid it - and we remain on great terms ever since.

The 'ethical' thing to do is work out a fair compromise with the designer.

Although I could have easily 'not paid' the designer, I never regret that I took the time to negotiate a fair compromise - and looking back, I trust if you take that approach you will feel that you've done the right thing.

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    Hi NivF007, I edited your post to make it a little more readable. If you don't like the changes, feel free to roll back. – Canadian Luke Apr 10 '14 at 17:07
  • @ Canadian Luke - I appreciate the assist - thank you - no roll-back required. – NivF007 Apr 10 '14 at 17:33
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    This is a very constructive recommendation. I think communicating openly about it to find a solution is the right path. I'll see where that gets me! Thanks for your response. – Jesse Schoff Apr 10 '14 at 18:13
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As a designer myself, my experience would tell me to work with you to find an logo you do want to use. I'd have a difficult time working on a logo and not satisfying the client in the end. If you haven't expressed clearly what you do not like and why you feel the current revision is unsuitable you should do so in a polite and respectful manner. Simply opening the discussion may be very beneficial. I know it would be for any client of mine.

In addition, perhaps I'm wrong but from the wording of your question it would see you saw his portfolio then a final design... This should not be the case. There should be multiple steps in between those two to ensure he is on the right track. If that's not the case, perhaps you need to ask why you aren't seeing preliminary ideas and only final designs and push him back a bit to show ideas before working towards final images. This is the most common path taken - discussion - 3-5 roughs - discussion - additional roughs or 1-3 comps (based on roughs) - discussion - 1-2 refined comps - discussion - 1 final.

If you have explained and the designer is still not "getting" it, and you are still unhappy with the work, and you just want to move on, then I personally, as a designer, would retain the initial 50% deposit/payment and not invoice for the remaining 50% (and not deliver final files). I can't feel good about charging final payments if the work was not satisfactory to the client. In reality though, every effort would be made to find something which is satisfactory before I reach this point with any of my clients. You really should speak to the designer about this. They may feel a small fee is warranted, or they may feel that a "kill" fee equal to the amount you've already paid is fair. Only the designer can decide what they feel is amicable to them.

As @NivF007 posted, emails can be construed as a "meeting of the minds" and therefore a contract. Any good designer I know is going to seek resolution rather than trying to charge you for work you don't find worthwhile.

All that being posted, forgive me, but without knowing you or the designer, it could be assumed the difficulty lies with you and your expectations. If your expectations are above and beyond what would be considered "normal" and the designer has made every effort to meet them, you are still unhappy, and the designer is no longer interested in seeking a solution for you. Then in those cases, it's not uncommon for both parties to agree to walk away for fees already collected/paid. Again, I don't think anyone can tell you what is "right" or "fair" except the designer you are working with. If unreasonable demands caused the designer many, many more hours of work than was anticipated, he/she may feel warranted in charging you to cover that extra work.

  • Thank you. This is helpful information for future projects, and I appreciate your perspective. – Jesse Schoff Apr 10 '14 at 18:54
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Any serious designer will tell you that for the money you're paying him, he is giving you X number of changes. Did he mention this? If not, don't pay him. If yes and you're still not getting what you want, then there are chances that it's your fault.

Although I am a developer, I mediate in design projects between my friend designer and the client. I immediately tell the client how many changes we offer for our price. And I don't change that. If I see that my friend made the wrong design in spite of client's clear instructions, then we do one more change for free.

So maybe you explain your designer that you don't like the final design (you have right not to like it!) , try to list changes you requested and see if it's his or your mistake. Also ask for the last free change (only if he set how many changes his price includes).

Since I am mediating such project, I see both sides and client's sentences like "make the logo cuter with lighter effect" will not help my designer to make what the client wants.

So if he accepts for the final design, then have a audio talk with him, and describe each step of a design in details.

If nothing helps, then seek another designer. If the same thing happens with him, there are high chances that the problem is in you. In such case, find the exact design or effect or color scheme you like and tell the designer that you want such design.

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