ideas and deliverables

So I have been working for a company as an industrial designer for a little less than a year and just recently I was approached at a regional conference (yeah for networking!) and offered some freelance work. The client wasn’t interested in a full design project - only what I could do in a limited amount of time for a limited amount of money. Essentially just a handful of first round concepts. In addition, the client requested the sketchbook pages which includes my thumbnail sketches, notes, etc. Upon presentation of the concepts, the client was very happy with what I presented in the form of concept drawings, but said that I should have included an “unlimited” number of ideas recorded in the sketchbook (almost a blank-check full of ideas), which is given to the client as part of the contract. But the client feels that these ideas should be given at no charge. I feel, even in a state of non-presentation (just a little sketch that took 5-10 minutes) any idea represents a value and compensation should be given for that. Is this a common occurrence? Basically, he wants a large amount of ideas (say 30) in thumbnail form and maybe 5 in actual presentation concept drawing form.

I guess the question would be: as a designer, how much of our fee is or should be based on actual, physical deliverables and how much is or should be based on the thought process and ideas?

Also, any advice on handling the client? They would like to give me more work but I feel that if they want more ideas (again - thumbnail sketch ideas) the value of the project would increase and so would the design fee.
Should I require a higher design fee for more ideas (even in thumbnail form)? How would this is billed out? And any suggestion on convincing the client that this requires more money (already discussed the obvious reasons - time, energy, etc.) but they still are believe that those ideas should be “thrown in for free”.

Thanks in advance for the feedback/suggestions?

Usually they’re hiring you for those thoughts, thumbs included. The pretty picture is just for the presentation. They’re not buying just presentation boards as illustrations, unless you’re just rendering stuff they’ve already designed. Those thumbs are all part of the thought process they’re paying you for. They may find clearer explaination of one of your 5 “finished” concepts in the thumbs that you omitted for whatever reason. Also they may see value in another concept that you filtered out of the final pres. The design work is in the thumbs, that’s what most places are paying you for. The pretty presentation is just one part of the whole. If they’re actually hiring you to design (think), assume they’ll want to see everything (your thinking process and how you arrived to the solutions-thumbs, etc.). If they’re just hiring you as an “illustrator”, then you’ll just have final boards to submit.

I would have to say that I agree with the client on this one. Usually when I’m working on stuff for a client, I am billing them by the hour. So this would include any and all work that I do during the time I am working for them. Since all those thumbnail drawings, etc. are done during this time, I would see no problem with giving them to the client. However, if it took me more time to scan them in and prepare them to be put into a nice book format, then I would charge them for this service.

Many times clients get the final renderings with a big bill, and when they have to show the work to their superiors or co-workers it may appear they got cheated (you paid 2,000 bucks for 15 concept renderings?) if the client can show the sketches and work that went into them then they can justify going back to you to their superiors, also their superiors may want to look through the thumbnails to see what else there is, and possibly incorporate something from them into the development.

I would say make copies for yourself of your thumbnails and give em to the client if that’s what they want - your billing them for that time anyway, so those starter sketches really are theirs if they want them.

If you stated in your contract that the final deliverable is X number of concept rendering then that is what the client gets. If not start doing it in the future.



terms and conditions are a must for freelance work. it comes with some experience.

Thanks for the replies!

I don’t argue with the fact that the client owns all those background thumbnail sketches. They pay for the time and they own what I do in that time. - that’s a given. In this instance, the client believes that the only time they should pay for is when the pencil is touching the paper. The time that it takes for me to think of the idea, concept, design shouldn’t count against the time clock. Is this typical?

For instance, during our discussion, the client stated “if each little concept takes 30 seconds to draw, I want 20 more concepts in thumbnail form, that’s only 10 bucks”. Then proceeded to say that this should be thrown in for free.

A little context for this project - the client is rather ambiguous in communicating what they need. No stated number of concepts, no concrete figures. A paraphrase of the conversation to initially start the project would be something like this “here’s is $250 - give me what you think $250 is worth.” Which made me very hesitant to take the project on at all - except that the client said that he would have numerous “mini-projects” like this to have me work on. So off I went, did the design work, returned and presented 5 concept illustrations and a few pages of thumbnail work. For the next project, the client wants the same - with 4-5 times more thumbnail drawings - but for the same price.

I guess my frustration should be more with the lack of stated parameters/deliverables. But the client is against having a stated number of concepts for fear that I will do the just the amount of work it takes me to get to that figure and not do “explore all possible design possibilities that come to me”.

I would see doing extensive thumbnail/concept work if the project was larger - but for $250 bucks I only do conceptualization in the time I’m getting paid for - not a couple weeks of gathering ideas off the clock and then charging out the time it takes to do the concept illustrations. Isn’t the time devoted to idea generation something that should be billed?

Thanks again for the feedback!

…$250 for 5 fully developed concepts is a steal, but you need to be very explicit in your agreements from now on…state the deliverables and the fees for same…time is more valuable than money and what they are buying is your time…anything beyond that must be written and agreed upon…it would be different if you were an employee…which, you are not.

this is just something that i have encountered working with designers on one of my project for my company.

we were very clear about doing concepts and doing renderings. we use outside designers for concepts only first. which means color rendering by hand or if the design chose to bring the sketch into more presentable form in photoshop or ill that is fine as will but mostly it is for 5 to 10 sktech hand rendered marker sketch concepts and must be done to our due date…if late we have the choice of non paying or reduced pay. how ever i do think this is sometime unfair but company always try to save cost and if project is delayed then they would want either no pay or scaled back pay.

personally working by hour is always hard to work with due to the fact that i would never know how long it will take or how long excatly the design will take or actuall work hour. so i like to do is charge by project.

but in any case what ever you gave to the customer you should at least get some money for it. if they say the thumb should be free then take the thumb back and say if you dont pay for my work then i can not gave you any thing…not even one line.

oh always ask for some money up front. that way keep everyone honest and if they decide not to pay when your done or if you delay and they decide not to pay you at least you got some money for your time spent.

that’s my thought