The unimaginative and not-so-bright "designer"

It bugs the hell out of me when a so-called "designer" claims as their own a design concept, or actual work, of a true design professional. I'm not writing about situations where existing work is used as "inspiration" for new work. I'm referring to blatant rip-offs.

Years ago a local Portland designer, when interviewing for jobs, actually included printed pieces of my work in the portfolio she was showing potential employers. Fortunately, in this pre-Internet case, she made the mistake of presenting the portfolio to a creative director who is still one of my best friends - and the "designer" was busted big time by my friend recognizing the work. In another situation, I almost drove off the road one day (here in Portland as well) when I saw signage for a building represented by a logo I had designed for a client in an unrelated business. The typeface hadn't even been changed on the sign. Yet another "designer" was caught red-handed due to their own stupidity.

Recently I was informed of a situation where a theatre company had "borrowed" a logo I designed for a play. The identity, now being licensed by the Theatre Logos Agency, had simply been copied from the TLA site and pasted into the theatre company web presence - complete with the "©" watermark of TLA. In other situations, I have been informed by eagle-eyed design professionals about examples of my work being included in the online portfolios of other "designers," or displayed as submissions on so-called "logo mill" or "logo contest" sites as the original work of someone else.

More and more often I am reading online forum posts about designers' identity creations, web designs, or code being blatantly stolen by others. The good thing is that a knowledgeable and vigilant online community of designers is often catching the rip-off "artists." I think my friend, designer and illustrator Von Glitschka, has got to be one of the most often ripped-off professionals around. Luckily, with his highly recognizable style, others in creative fields have discovered and reported the stealing of his work by individuals around the world. The Internet seems to have made it a bit easier to catch the unimaginative and not-so-bright "designers."

In reading the How Design Forum this morning I came across a thread about yet another so-called "logo contest" site, where "clients" post design requests, with ridiculously low possible payouts, for speculative logo design work from obviously not-so-bright individuals, in a quest for the ideal identity created by "the most talented designers in the world" (the site's claim - not my personal opinion). I'm not going to even bother including the site's name or URL in this bLog-oMotives entry. I don't need to do so all; Steve Douglas, HOW Forum member and Creative Director of The Logo Factory, did that for me in his own blog post "Why logo contests don't work" - documenting the fact that two of his own company's designs were ripped-off by two different "designers" making "logo contest" submissions.

Douglas' blog, and a HOW Forum mention that someone using the screenname "LogoMotives" was posting submisssions, piqued my curiosity enough to make a visit to the "logo contest" site myself. Sure enough, someone is posting "contest" entries as "LogoMotives" - which I assume is nothing more than an attempt to ride the coattails of my 30 year career as a logo designer.

Then I saw the unimaginative work of submitter uptowngirl92 - her rip-off of my award-winning Seacoast AIDS Walk identity (above). As I mentioned in a HOW Forum posting "I'm not sure what is worse, being ripped-off exactly, or having your original concept ripped-off and executed incredibly poorly (I think you can tell which design is mine)."

In marketing and promoting your design work, you need to put it "out there" for potential clients to see. My work is on numerous portfolio sites, in profiles on other online presences, published in over 100 books, and featured on the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives blogfolio. Such Internet promotion brings a great many clients my way and the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I also appreciate the many kind comments received from students and professionals who see my work as inspiring in regards to their own efforts. However, I'm far from a fan of the unimaginative and not-so-bright so-called "designer" who feels they have the right to use and abuse the work of others, and then claim it as their own. In fact, it really pisses me off.

I'm thankful that the design community does such a good job of finding these rip-off "artists" and calling them on their unprofessional and unethical activities.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

1 comment:

Ben Williams said...

I thought this issue was pretty astounding (that such blatant rip-offs were a widespread problem) until I considered a former job that I held at a local magazine. Being a fairly small publication, we designed ads for advertisers who wanted their ad to look like so-and-so's ad. While we weren't ripping off logos, at our clients' requests, we were ripping off designs. This was never an ethical issue to me as I was only performing my job but after reading your post, I'm not so sure. Now I am designing ads as a freelance designer and I'm sure I'd be upset to see my designs ripped off.

This is an interesting issue because I am in a much smaller market than Portland. In my town, that is just the way things are and it seems that everyone expects it. However, I am all for raising the standard in my market. Have you found that such ideals and standards become economically self-defeating? In other words, have you (at least in the beginning) found that you have financially suffered, to the point of not being able to pay the bills, for doing the right thing?