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Hello,

I'm thinking about seeking out designers to help me increase my line of tshirt designs. One possibility is to pay the designer a very small upfront fee, but offer them continual royalties on all future sales of their design. I was wondering if anyone here has experience using this approach (on either end), and if so, what is a fair percentage rate for the royalty? I know this might depend on particular situations, but is there an industry standard that anyone knows about? My first guess is somewhere from 10% - 20% of retail price. What do you think?
 

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Most designers get paid an upfront fee, and the design belongs to you. Once you own the design, you don't owe anyone anything, because they have been paid for their service. Another thing is it can get very complicated trying to keep up with who created what design, how many of that design you have sold, and paying everybody for their work. Also, 20% is a lot of money. If you’re selling your shirts for $20, then every shirt you sell you’re giving the designer $4! It’s just really not necessary. It’s much simpler to have someone do a design for you, you pay them, and you own the rights. If you become incredibly successful because of their designs, you may want to go back and give them some extra funds!
As a matter of fact, that is my plan. My shirts are different than most on this forum. I had someone create realistic characters for me. The work is great, and the selling by word of mouth is outrageous. Once I saw the finished product, I couldn’t believe the deal that I had gotten, so if (when!) my business becomes a huge success, I feel the only right thing to do would be to pay my designer what I really believe his worth is. But that is a personal choice.

Also, if someone is asking for royalties, I would run away as fast as I could. There’s too many ways to get designs done, without some eating into your profits for eternity! I say find someone that is willing to do the work and get paid for the work and let you have the rights to the design, and be done with it.
 

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Comin'OutSwingin said:
Most designers get paid an upfront fee, and the design belongs to you. Once you own the design, you don't owe anyone anything, because they have been paid for their service. Another thing is it can get very complicated trying to keep up with who created what design, how many of that design you have sold, and paying everybody for their work. Also, 20% is a lot of money. If you’re selling your shirts for $20, then every shirt you sell you’re giving the designer $4! It’s just really not necessary. It’s much simpler to have someone do a design for you, you pay them, and you own the rights. If you become incredibly successful because of their designs, you may want to go back and give them some extra funds!
As a matter of fact, that is my plan. My shirts are different than most on this forum. I had someone create realistic characters for me. The work is great, and the selling by word of mouth is outrageous. Once I saw the finished product, I couldn’t believe the deal that I had gotten, so if (when!) my business becomes a huge success, I feel the only right thing to do would be to pay my designer what I really believe his worth is. But that is a personal choice.

Also, if someone is asking for royalties, I would run away as fast as I could. There’s too many ways to get designs done, without some eating into your profits for eternity! I say find someone that is willing to do the work and get paid for the work and let you have the rights to the design, and be done with it.

/nod sagely
 

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I have created alot of designs to be printed on t-shirts and many other items and the way I work it is for one price I will sell you a design with the understanding that the dsign is yours to use almost any way you want but I also have the right to sell the design again. Think of it as if you went to the art store and bought a print by a famous artist you can take it home and hang it where ever you want. However that print is also available for other people to buy. This seems to work as I can make more money on one design and people who have a low budget to work with don't have to rob a bank to have designs. I would also quote a price for the design lock, stock and barrel. Of course something like a custom logo would belong to the person completely.
 

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Logo-Mechanix said:
... I work it is for one price I will sell you a design with the understanding that the dsign is yours to use almost any way you want but I also have the right to sell the design again.
Any time I've been asked for something like this, it has been either a work for hire where they own all rights to it (which costs more) or as Logo-Mechanix says, they pay a set amount for the rights to use it commercially but I can re-sell the image because I still own the image itself and full rights to it.
 

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i would think that the "win-win" ideal for this type of situation would be for the artist to sell the t-shirt design for a flat price on a "non-exclusive basis, meaning that if i buy a design from you for a tee-shirt, i would have exclusive rights to use it for t-shirts only. the artist would retain the rights to use the same artwork for all other forms of media, like mugs, posters mousepads, towels, or whatever, but i should have sole and exclusive rights of that image for t-shirt use.
 

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Royalty would be in the area of 1 to 3% depending on your price. But you'll have to convince the artist you're going to move a fair number of shirts. Any art that you buy, should be for exclusive rights only, unless you're talking the major branded stuff.
 

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Comin'OutSwingin, do you have any of your designs online? I can't find mention of your site, and I'd be interested in seeing what you're doing. Original character design seems to be few and far between in the t-shirt world. I always wonder why more of that isn't done.
 

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I can agree with the designers concept of sell the design. Exclusive or not, to me the money spent on a design with no sales history is as risky as going to a casino. Should one spend $150. (that is a guess) for each of 50 designs and not make any money on 45 of them? $7500. is a huge risk for a set of designs you may druel over but have no idea whether any of them will make a dime. I understand that art work is work and you need to get paid. We all do for what we do. Art with a track record is a salable item as long as the fad lasts and an outlay for proven works is justifyable. The royalty system just seems more fair. We offer $1. royalty for designs from artists, and though we haven't approached very many for designs, we have experienced positive responses from them. It is more work to get them off their keister without the big check waving though. Oscar
 

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Even the best artwork may not sell in the wrong hands, so it's a big risk for a designer to put their time into a design and hand it over without any guarantees of payment.

At $1 per shirt, they would have to sell 150-300 shirts of a design to get compensated back for their work at the regular rate.

As the t-shirt seller, part of your risk is putting up the design for sale, marketing, etc. You may find a few artists that are willing to work on a commission, but in the long term, I think it seems like there are better ways to go about it.

Now if you're a store like WalMart or Macys and you have established customers and established sales, I can see designers lining up to design on commission, but for an up and coming t-shirt company, most artist will want you to "show them the money".
 

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It depends on who you look to to make up the designs as well. If you hit up friends, People you kind-sorta know online, College art students, etc. you can probably get some nifty stuff designed a lot cheaper. Some people will be happy with a free t-shirt or two.

Another idea I've kind of toyed around with is a time-based royalty -- e.g. 10% of all sales of that shirt for, say, 3 months (or 6, or whatever works for you) and after that they don't get any more money from you. This could of course be combined with whatever rights you want to go with (you get full rights, artist keeps rights for other mediums, etc.)
 

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3 0ats, i understand your point, but one thing to keep in mind in this business, or any other is that you have to know your market, and have a basic understanding as to what types of colors and graphics strike a responsive chord to your segment of the marketplace. you would not try to sell hip-hop designs to a heavy metal crowd, or vica-versa. so if you are buying a design with "no sales history" it should not be a major issue, as long as the design is 1: unigue 2: proffesional looking, and 3:falls in line with the visual expectations of your market. just like a good record company exzecutive who cannot sing or play an instrument, BUT he knows how to recognize a good song or artist for his market, we in the t-shirt biz should execute the same forsight when it comes to commisioning artwork for our products. i believe that, along with good promotion should dramaticly decrease your risks.
 

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I'm a professional graphic designer. Most graphic designers get paid as "work for hire" because what they are creating is not resold, they are creating something that is used to explain or educate or convey information of some type. In the world of reselling merchandise, my opinion is if I were an illustrator, I'd want to be paid for the quality of my artwork and it's potential value to your market. I'd make you a price for what I think my design is worth, sell it to you, but retain the copyright, so that if I did want to reproduce it, or sell it to someone else I could. This is also how it works when I engage an illustrator to produce artwork for my print design projects. The fee I pay the artist is based on whether or not I'm buying the illustration outright, to use how I deem fit forever, or commissioning the artwork for a fixed useage: medium (such as a brochure or billboard) and length or time/locale (one year, North American rights only). Very very few illustrators will give up their copyright of their artwork. I've engaged illustrators where I've bought their work for my exclusive use (in a series of brochures for a large company) but the illustrator maintains his copyright of what he created. This way he can still use examples of the art he created to promote himself. Paying a flat fee and a royalty is a very fair and legitimate way to do business, but I imagine it is a pain to do the paperwork. So pay the artist a flat, fair price outright but make sure you get it in writing that he is selling you the copyright, or the unlimited use in T-shirt sales, or whatever terms you need.
 

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While most graphic designers industry-wide may retain their copyright for their artwork, I think it is important to remember that t-shirt design, logo design, or just designing for the apparel industry is different than some of the other industries designers create things for. Most people in the apparel industry would NEED to have exclusive rights to a design. This is what makes their company, brand, shirts, unique from others. I think you will also find that there are many designers willing to design for the apparel industry and give all rights to the person that commissioned them for the design. This is because they know that people don't want to pay for a design or logo, then have someone else have the same design because they could buy it, too.

If you were to create a design for someone to put on a tee, then retain the copyright so you could sell that design to someone else, their ability to profit from it is greatly deminished. This would be the exact reason to purchase complete ownership of the design.

This is where I think it is important to realize the purpose of the work. Buying something that an artist has already created and using it for a set time, is completely different from hiring an artist to create something for you. The whole reason you would want it created is because it doesn't exist. If you only want to use something for a period of time, I can see why you would pay a royalty. But I don't think designs on clothing or designs for the apparel industry in general would normally fall into that category.

Also, I really don't see the importance of an artist being able to keep a copyright on something they were hired to produce for someone else. Or why they would want to. I know in my case, I hired someone to create characters for me. I told the artist how I wanted them to look. They were my vision. Everything from facial features, build, and clothes, to how thin their eyebrows should be. When he strayed from my vision, I had him do things to change what he had done so that the image conformed to my vision. At that point, the work was "our" intellectual property. Then he was paid for the part that he contributed, which was directed by me. So when it was completed, I expected to own the images and everything that comes along with it (copyright). It does me know good if he retained the copyright and someone else is able to profit from
what I'm building my brand around.
 

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CominOutSwinging, it may be good to get the copyright and ownership stuff in writing from the artist(s) you are hiring, just so you're both on the same page.
 

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Oh, yeah. I agree. That's what I did. That's the only way I would do business with any designer. If the designer couldn't agree to put that in writing, then I would have had to find someone else.
 

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I agree with what is being said by all and with your point of view. We deal with artists at a different level and offer them the royalty as another way for them to profit from their work. Keep in mind that I am not referring to the graphic designer or an illustrator. (though they may be- if that is their medium)
 

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Comin'OutSwingin said:
Also, I really don't see the importance of an artist being able to keep a copyright on something they were hired to produce for someone else. Or why they would want to. I know in my case, I hired someone to create characters for me. I told the artist how I wanted them to look. They were my vision. Everything from facial features, build, and clothes, to how thin their eyebrows should be. When he strayed from my vision, I had him do things to change what he had done so that the image conformed to my vision. At that point, the work was "our" intellectual property. Then he was paid for the part that he contributed, which was directed by me. So when it was completed, I expected to own the images and everything that comes along with it (copyright). It does me know good if he retained the copyright and someone else is able to profit from
what I'm building my brand around.
This is an interesting topic to me personally. I literally have HUNDREDS of concepts I would like to develop. Since I am CREATIVE but not ARTISTIC i will need to hire a designer to create my vision(s). If the idea is 100% mine, but the design is someone elses, it would seem fair to me that there should only be an upront cost to compensate the designer. I did have one question about fair pricing. I am developing a line that will feature SLOGANS and then have my brand logo either printed on the sleeve or back of shirt. How much do designers typically charge to create slogans(not the idea just the graphic) for t-shirts. I also have ideas for additional graphics, but to keep cost down I am starting with concepts only featuring slogans. I just wanted to get an idea of pricing for that and maybe some names of designers who specialize in "typography" type slogan designs. Thanks in advance, Tony
 

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I'm am FAR from a graphics expert. To put it bluntly, I suck with graphics programs. I outsource most of the semi-complicated stuff to various freelance artists.

But when it comes to doing just "slogans" with typography, I have found it easier to mess around with the graphics programs I have on my computer to come up with something. It's not too hard to mess around with different fonts/sizing/spacing, and it saves me money from having to outsource lots of different slogans.

If you establish a relationship with an artist, you may be able to work out some sort of lower price range for the volume of work (as long as you don't have a ton of revisions). You could probably get slogan/typography work done from $5-$300 per slogan, depending on where you go and what type of relationship you have with your freelancer.

Checking places like elance.com, guru.com, rentacoder.com, ifreelance.com, designoutpost.com etc can put you in touch with a lot of different freelance artists.
 
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