Graphic Design, Lawyers and Sean Penn

graphic design lawyer talks about Sean Penn Website development case
Sean Penn done got himself in a graphic design and development legal battle.

Actor/ paparazzi-fighter, Sean Penn, is suing the California-based design firm, Vividminds. He doesn’t want to pay for a website and insists they didn’t comply with their $25,000 contract. And to this graphic design lawyer, it sounds like Vividminds is 100% in the right in this case.

“Are you kidding? $25,000 for a website is outrageous! I could do that site for $200!” was a common refrain echoed by low-cost developers. Spend-thrift business owners proudly declared, “I got my website done for free!” And as always, a handful of under-appreciated, professional designers and developers explained to an anonymous peanut gallery that, “$25,000 really isn’t an exorbitant amount for a website done by an established agency.”

About Vividminds

Vividminds is a creative agency with an impressive client roster. It’s a full-service firm that does work for Toyota, the Cleveland Browns, DC Shoe Co., and many other high-profile charities and big-budget brands. A one-man shop (with minimal overhead) they are not.

Considering Vividminds’ elevated industry status, it’s safe to assume that:

ONE: They make all clients sign comprehensive, iron-clad agreements before starting any project.


TWO: Development of a website doesn’t begin until the client signs-off on design docs.

Sean Penn Called To Say, “Hey, The Website Isn’t Good Enough, Better Call Your Graphic Design Lawyer.”

Penn established the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in the wake of the island country’s devastating earthquakes. Vividminds won the foundation’s website project bid, and a fee of $25,000 was agreed upon. Vividminds built the site, but J/P Haitian Relief wasn’t happy with the results.

Mr. Penn called the design firm to complain; but executives at Vividminds didn’t bend. They informed Sean that the contract goals and stipulations were met and if he wanted more work done, it would be an additional $10,000. Outraged, Penn and J/P Haitian Relief decided to file suit, claiming the delivered website was “not up to standards”.

The Cost of Good Design and Development

These days, everybody has a website, and it’s possible to get a free (or nearly free) template site in a matter of hours. As a result, the value and importance of professional, custom design and development has significantly diminished in the eyes of the average business owner.

Most don’t understand the time, talent and multidisciplinary skills it takes to create an attractive and effective logo, website or advertisement.

For a firm the size of Vividminds, $25,000 sounds about right. Firstly, if you’re going to choose a high-profile firm, you’re going to pay high-profile prices. Moreover, several designers, developers and marketing experts most likely contributed to the J/P Haitian Relief project.

The Nightmare Known as Project Creep (And Why It’s A Good Idea to Have a Graphic Design Lawyer On Speed-Dial)

Any designer or developer — who’s been in the industry for more than a minute — knows the evils of “project creep.” It usually goes something like this: You and a client agree on goals and sign a contract. Then, the client starts requesting small upgrades here and there. You oblige since the requests are miniscule. But before long, the sum of those small changes and additions amounts to a considerable amount of time – time for which you weren’t compensated.

Established design firms don’t tolerate project creep and usually have graphic design lawyers craft air-tight contracts to guard against it. So, unless Sean Penn and co. can prove Vividminds didn’t adhere to the original contract agreement, J/P Haitian Relief will have a tough time winning this website payment lawsuit.

If, however, Vividminds failed to have a J/P Haitian Relief representative put their John Hancock on a contract, the design agency could find themselves on the losing side of this suit.

How Designers and Developers Can Protect Themselves With The Help Of A Lawyer

If you want to avoid a costly lawsuit or legal hassle, get a graphic design lawyer to draft a boilerplate contract for your business. Don’t rely on free agreements readily found on the Internet; many of those contracts actually favor the client! Moreover, a developer lawyer can help you with any intellectual property needs that arise.

Kelly / Warner Law represents many freelance designers and full-service agencies. We understand the legal needs of those in the creative marketplace and have a reputation for resolving conflicts quickly. You’ve worked hard to establish your design business, now it’s time to make sure it’s protected. Contact us today to get started.

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