i+D - May/June 2019 - 26

Business
of Design
Contracts

The All-Important Contract
Contracts obviously are essential
to mitigating such risks, but prior to
signing any documents, it's an ideal
time to determine client expectations
and whether a project is even worth
pursuing. Siegel says the pre-contract
phase or "contracting process" is
among the most practical ways to
educate a client on what an interior
designer's roles and responsibilities
are and sets the tone for the rest
of the relationship. Because if the
client's expectations are too exacting,
it might be best to walk away.
"One very important result of the
contracting process is you'll learn an
awful lot about what your client's
expectations are and requirements
that may be totally unreasonable
and unacceptable-and it's the first
time and probably the last time that
you can easily bow out of a project
without legal entanglements,"
he explains.

Robertson agrees and says while many designers shy away from pushing too hard on the
terms of the contract for fear of turning off a client, negotiation is the professional approach
and serves as a litmus test for future business. "If a client or a potential client refuses to
sign or takes issue with terms that are important to the designer, it just might be a red flag,
and consideration should be given to maybe walking away from this project," she advises.
Assuming both parties agree to move forward, the contract itself is essential to a successful
working relationship. An expression Robertson repeats often is, "If it's not in writing, it
doesn't exist." While emails and verbal agreements may seem enough initially, designers are
vulnerable without a contract if a project goes south, she says.
While law firms and professional associations like ASID offer contract templates for a fee
(see "ASID Updates Commercial, Residential Contracts," p. 28), they are not one-size-fitsall tools. "You can't simply change the name and date and address," Robertson explains.
"You have to really turn your mind to the key terms, the scope, the fees, the expenses, client
responsibilities, limitation of liability-all of the key terms to reflect the actual project."
Intellectual property (IP) is another provision designers will likely want to include in the
contract, Siegel says, especially if they engage in frequent custom work they'd like to license
to third-party manufacturers that will require proof of ownership. If a client objects to
IP stipulations on the basis of duplicating a residential design elsewhere, for example, Siegel
says the answer is simple: "I could agree by contract not to do that, and you'll have better
rights than you would on IP rights."

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i+D - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i+D - May/June 2019

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