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In general, a vendor is any outside entity that you buy products
or services from. If you're buying services from a freelancer, you
need to have a signed independent contractor agreement in place.
The purpose is to describe the services being purchased and the
method of compensation, but also to clarify ownership of
intellectual property. To see sample agreements, pick up the
paperback Working with Independent Contractors by attorney Stephen Fishman.
Intellectual property is also a key issue when you're
negotiating with content providers such as photographers. The
American Society of Media Photographers has two publications that
explain standard practices in the field of photography:Working
with an Assignment Photographer and ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography.
Most projects require miscellaneous supplies. These are usually
purchased over-the-counter from retailers. In the United States, general
legal protection is in place for all such purchases. Every state
except Louisiana has enacted Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). This statute governs a range of commercial
transactions, including the “sale of goods.” “Goods” include all
items that are both identifiable and moveable at the time of the
sale. The UCC specifies that sales transactions carry an “implied
warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.”
This is a promise that the goods delivered will be free from
defects and reasonably fit for the ordinary purpose for which such
goods are usually sold. For details about this, contact the state
government where you're located.
More importantly, graphic design projects often involve major
purchases of custom services such as prepress work and printing.
Information about standard trade practices is available from the
Printing Industries of America and the Graphic Arts Technical
When you're shopping for custom services such as printing, you
need to prepare detailed specifications first so that you can seek
competitive bids. Discuss the specifications with each firm and be
open to suggestions—your vendors are a great source of expert
advice. As you negotiate the price and schedule, be sure to spell
out what the proofing and approval process will be. There must be
no confusion about your quality standards and terms of acceptance
for finished work.
If you haven't worked with a certain vendor before, they may
require you or your client to fill out a credit application and pay
an advance deposit on the work. If your design studio will be
paying for the printing and then reselling it to your client, you
many need to have a state sales tax account. For more information,
see the AIGA publication titled Sales Tax. It can be
downloaded for free at: www.aiga.org/design-business-and-ethics
The final step in the negotiation process is to lock in the
details by issuing a purchase order. A sample P.O. can be found in
the book Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers by
attorney Tad Crawford and design manager Eva Doman Bruck.
Getting written agreements in place with your vendors will
prevent confusion, particularly when you are buying expensive
custom services. Detailed agreements will help you to avoid
disputes and build positive vendor relationships.
Shel is a graphic designer who is active on the business side of professional practice. He has solid experience managing the operations of leading creative firms and guiding them through periods of accelerated growth and rapid change. He has served as director
of operations for MetaDesign San Francisco and as vice president of operations for Clement Mok. He provides management consulting services to a range of creative firms in both traditional and new media. Shel has served on the national board of the Association
of Professional Design Firms and as the president of AIGA San Francisco. He has written and lectured on many topics related to design management and teaches Professional Practice at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, the California College of Arts, and the
University of California.
Learn how Seattle branding agency Kendall Ross revved up the package design for a line of Bardahl’s fuel system products.
Section: Why Design -
The purpose of a proposal is to have a comprehensive document that serves as a project contract when signed by all parties. These lessons will help you walk through the process of arriving at this point.
Section: Tools and Resources -
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