Any graphic designer will probably agree that managing clients can be a difficult task, particularly when your services involve creative expression and artistic discretion. 

If a legal agreement is not set out in writing at the beginning of the job, misunderstandings can easily arise between the graphic designer and their client. These disagreements could relate to what services are expected, on what terms, and for how much money. 

Developing visual content often requires a graphic designer to input their original and artistic content into a project. This raises questions as to what happens if the client is unhappy with the deliverable from their subjective point of view. It also brings up the issue of how intellectual property ownership will be distributed between the graphic designer and the client. 

This article will consider how Graphic Design Terms & Conditions can help avoid these problems arising with clients and protect the graphic designer if things do go wrong. 

Key Things To Consider In Your Relationship With Your Client

As a graphic designer, here are some key legal points you should be considering in your relationships with your clients. 

Your Order Form

Many graphic designers decide to structure their agreements with clients into two sections: a Statement of Work and Standard Terms. 

A Statement of Work is like an “order form”, so the graphic designer can insert the main details of the services they’ll be providing to a particular client. This will be varied each time the graphic designer takes on a new project. However, the Standard Terms (which come after the Statement of Work in the legal document) will stay the same from project to project. 

A Statement of Work usually includes:

  • the name of the client; 
  • the specific services that the graphic designer will be undertaking for the client; 
  • the start date of the project; 
  • the project period;
  • when the project is due; 
  • the fees for each of the services (including if the services are billed at an hourly or daily rate, or on a per-project basis); 
  • the payment terms (such as when invoices issued are payable); and
  • any Special Conditions which vary the Standard Terms. 

Having these key details set out on the first page of your legal agreement assists greatly in avoiding disputes with clients. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page as to what is expected from the relationship.  

Scope Of Services

While the order form (or Statement of Work) sets out the specific details of the services to be provided, the Standard Terms section specifies the legal terms

This will usually outline:

  • what happens if the client wants to change the scope of services or requires additional work; 
  • what happens if the graphic designer cannot meet the due dates for the project (as set out in the Statement of Work);
  • what happens if you, as the graphic designer, are unable to undertake the project personally (and need to bring in another contractor); and
  • what happens if the graphic designer needs to engage a third party to take on a particular role in the project.  

Intellectual Property

Knowing who owns what in terms of the deliverables provided by the graphic designer is extremely important for both parties.

Graphic Design T&Cs usually make it clear how the intellectual property will be owned by the parties once the project is complete. 

There are a few different ways of doing this. 

One option is that the graphic designer will keep any material they developed before their relationship with the client, and the client will own any intellectual property developed during the project. Then, the client licences that developed intellectual property back to the graphic designer (so that the graphic designer can use it when promoting their services to other clients). 

Another option is that the graphic designer keeps all the intellectual property developed during the project with the client, and licences it to the client so that they can use it for their intended purpose (for example, as part of an advertisement or a website). 

Either way, setting out clear expectations regarding intellectual property ownership will avoid disputes arising down the track. 


How and when a party can terminate the contract is often a subject of dispute between service providers and clients. 

A termination clause should clearly set out the grounds on which a party can terminate the contract (i.e. if the other party breached the contract — for example, by failing to make payment of invoices due). 

The termination clause should also outline what happens after the termination. 

The graphic designer may require that if the client terminates the contract, they are still liable to pay any invoices that have been issued or are yet to be issued for services already completed. A service provider would usually want to ensure that the client is still liable for any suppliers or third party contractors that they have already paid. 

Need Help?

Having a lawyer help you draft Graphic Design Terms & Conditions will help manage your relationships with your clients and ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

Get in contact with one of our consultants to discuss how we can help get together Graphic Design Terms & Conditions and talk about any other legals you may need to consider for your graphic design business. You can reach us at 1800 730 617 or email us at

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