If graphic design was like the movies every brochure would need an extra couple of pages at the back. Just think, at the end of every movie everyone from the top movie stars down to the person who made the coffee gets a credit. If in the graphic design world we took a leaf out of their book, there would be the designer, the printer, the paper supplier, the ink supplier, the photographer……. down to the shop where you bought your layout pad.

This leads to a question I received by email from from Lauren Marie Krause:

I have a question for you and I would love to see you turn it into a post. How much original artwork (photos, illustrations, elements, etc) needs to be in a piece for you to be able to say it’s yours?

In other words, if I use a piece of art from, say, Obsidian Dawn, in a design project, would I still be able to put it in my portfolio and call it mine? Do I have to give her credit every time I show the piece to someone?

I suppose it might depend on how prominent the art/photo in question is and whether or not credit is given to the original author of it? But what about stock photography? I hardly ever see where credit is given to the photographer if I see photos in a brochure or website or something. I feel guilty about using other people’s work, even if they say it’s free for commercial use, like the Obsidian Dawn disclaimer. I don’t think I’ve ever used someone else’s work in my own pieces; if I can’t get a certain photo I want, I’ll composite several others together to create a layout and then illustrate it. But this is very limiting and time consuming! What do you think? How do you handle it? What have you done in the past? Do you give credit? What about with free things?

It’s a question that before Lauren emailed I had never really considered. Personally when I do a design job and use royalty free images (that I have paid a few pounds for) I don’t give a credit to the artist. If I use free images I would avoid any images that require a credit as I know I won’t be able to honour that in my design, as it’s unlikely the client won’t want it.

I don’t have any problem with using royalty free images and not giving credit to the artist, though I would never say that I had produced the photograph or illustration. If you think about it how often as designers a we given a physical credit for our work? I do a lot work through agencies and marketing companies and they certainly don’t want to say that I have done the work, for fear that a client may come directly to me.

If however I was commissioning a photographer or illustrator for a job where it was agreed by the client that I could put a credit for my design on the back of the brochure, I would possibly give them credit too. This however puts you in the same predicament as agencies I work. Do I want my client to know who did their photography and illustration?

How do you decide whether to give credit for another persons work?