March 29, 2012

Love Thy Logo

Steal My Logo, Please

Author: Bill Gardner

A lesson for clients and designers alike:

I like to share with clients that designers are very accustomed to rejection. If we present five logos to a client, and they select one, 80 percent of our work is rejected. I never focus on that since there is a certain elation that a solution was chosen. In my office there is a stack of presentation cards two feet high that only contains the marks that were not selected.

On a weekly basis I am asked by a LogoLounge member if it is okay to post unselected logos to the site. If a design is credible and well crafted, why not? If clients only selected the best solutions, I'd only show them one and not present options. Every designer hates to see their unloved work buried in a file and forgotten.

Gardner Design determined early on that it would upload the best of our unchosen work to the site and indicate that it was unselected. We all have a bit of voyeur in us that wants to see what the client didn't select and if we agree with their decision. I noted Felix Sockwell started uploading his but he labeled them "For Sale." Michael Vanderbyl suggested to me in the earliest days, that posting the discards gave the logos a "date of creation" stamp so at least a designer could claim first authorship. Regardless of your reason, it has turned into a tradition for many designers to showcase their best-of these forlorn castoffs.

Unintended fortunes

Brian Miller, our vice president and senior art director was helping his son with a Spanish lesson one evening a few years ago. As he pounded the internet looking for a translation service he came across a really credible and robust site with a fetching logo. So fetching, in fact, it stopped Brian cold when he realized it was a mark we had designed but not for this organization. It was an unused logo he had created for an architecture firm that had subsequently been uploaded to LogoLounge with the rest of the rejects.

This translation service, Spanish Pod, had no idea they had purchased a stolen logo

Now there are knock-offs and then there are serious knock-offs. When you can take the offending art and scale it to overlay your original and the two works have an identical silhouette, this is when our Intellectual properties attorney gets excited. And he did. And we had a date stamped record of our creation on LogoLounge that preceded even the inception of the translation service.

Let me start by saying the owners of the service using the logo had no idea they had been sold stolen property. The unscrupulous designer that foisted the mark on these folks may have thought by changing a color or adding a shadow they were safe. They were not. They were lazy, they were swindlers, and they were caught.

This is the result when hiring a designer that doesn't understand the diligence that really goes into creating an identity. This can happen when a client uses a service that offers a crowd sourced solution or bottom dollar answers. I cannot tell you how the client dealt with the shyster. That was between them. I can report that our counsel was paid in full and a handsome fee was paid to Gardner Design. In return, a full transfer of the copyright was issued on the mark rejected by the architect it had originally been designed for.

This is anything but a one time incident. At this writing, our counsel is speaking with one of the most lavish shopping malls in India that was discovered to be using another of our unassigned logos. Again, I can only imagine the center owners had no idea they have based their entire branding around stolen property. Photos showing the logos application reveal several hundred thousands of dollars in signage and a beautifully crafted fifty foot version of the mark in the center court yard, inlaid in the floor in five types of imported marble. Ouch.

Don't be a Bridget

You must know this. The world of logo design is a pretty tight network and good logo designers don't forget a mark. We may forget the name sometimes, but we never forget the face. When the code is broken and a work is lifted, someone will drop a dime. Case in point.

In 2002, our office was hired to develop solutions for the US Ag Bank and again Brian Miller created one of the most enduring logos that was not selected. The mark, a combination of an eagle in flight and a leaf, was uploaded to as an unused solution. Statistically this mark holds the record as the most referenced logo on the site. We still love the design and in 2010 the Southern States Energy Board contacted us to let us know they loved it too. It was a perfect fit for their organization and after developing a type treatment they were glad to purchase the identity and assume ownership.

Proposed US AgBank Logo as designed in 2002

Imagine my surprise last Summer when Bridget Skelly uploaded the same design to LogoLounge. I contacted her by email to point out the infringement and have left multiple unreturned phone messages. I see that she has reworked the color breaks so obviously she has taken steps to modify and improve on our original. I am only left to wonder what kind of a world she lives in where she not only steals, but then went on to post and brag about it. Her new company Bridged Design in Herndon, Virginia dedicates a page to the design, though I don't reach her client when I call the number on the business card.

Stolen design applied to business card as displayed on Bridged Design

As I was trying to find good contact information for Bridget, I found her comments on the Creative Bits blog. Here she commented on the blatant rip-off of the City of Melbourne logo using a Picasso quote to justify theft. Her grasp of the issue is fully evident however in her leaping to "why re-invent the wheel?"

CreativeBits link:

Don't steal other folks design. They toiled and worked hard, you didn't. Their clients paid them to own the design, you didn't. Your client paid you to create something they could own, you didn't. I privately asked you to return my call, you didn't.

I now copy this post to the Southern States Energy Board to let their counsel address the infringement.

{"http:\/\/\/content\/column.php?id=273":{"comments":{"data":[{"id":"10150650239355233_23512744","from":{"id":"625906554","name":"Von Glitschka"},"message":"Bridget, the creative process is about \"Creating\" your own ideas, not \"Borrowing\" or \"Finding\" other designers ideas and posting them as your own. The fact you find accountability uncomfortable means you need to go stand in a mirror and point the finger at the correct target of your distain.\n\nWhat you did isn't merely a mistake, no one steals art and than goes \"Oops I didn't realize I sourced out that design that was not mine and re-built it in vector format and used it for my own client.\" nice try, or just a misguided decision, it's a fundamentally flawed creative process from the ground up that would leverage these kind of design tactics. The only reason one would do this is because they are creatively lazy.\n\nYou're right in one respect Bridget, we don't really know you, so the only conclusion we can draw is based on your free will public choice to display another designers work. Apparently you're perfectly fine with stealing and not too worried about others possibly spotting it. We can only judge you by your creative actions. That is what Bills article is all about. It noticed your actions, and it called you out and rightly so. It wasn't done in a mean-spirited way, it was done in an honest matter of fact way and that may not lend a pleasant light to your nefarious design skills but it's fair game.\n\nAt least you admit to doing something wrong unlike other's who Bill has exposed who have stolen hundreds of other peoples work and won't admit to anything. I'll give you that at least.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-04-01T21:47:54+0000","like_count":20,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23486947","from":{"id":"579331295","name":"Jeff Andrews"},"message":"My take is, if the designer in question didn't want to take the heat for blatantly copying another designer's work, they shouldn't have just as blatantly posted it on their own website as an example of their work. This designer's reaction seems like a whole lot of back pedaling. Truth is, you got caught. Man up, admit it and move on.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T20:12:45+0000","like_count":9,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23471383","from":{"id":"715890855","name":"Cary Whitt"},"message":"Good post. Bridget is taking down every post about this she can find. She is checking her FB on the hour in fact and blocking anyone with a negative or constructive comment. Doing more running and hiding.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-29T18:05:32+0000","like_count":7,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23471599","from":{"id":"744917474","name":"Mark Ernst"},"message":"when you get lazy, you steel.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-29T18:23:38+0000","like_count":6,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23483894","from":{"id":"1358490324","name":"Rick Chavez"},"message":"I believe the correct term would be libel, not slander. and only if it the statements Mr. Gardner has posted are not true. If he tried multiple times to contact Ms Skelly and had no success, at the very least, he has her full attention now.\n  Is it poor form for him to post this openly?  That's his business. But I have been pinched, my situation was taken care of privately because the people who did it made themselves accessible and were nice about it. I have seen many of my designer friends work used without permission (we used to call that stealing). One designer in particular is copied so much that it's almost a monthly event. They also post openly about their infringement issues. Why? The best answer I have come up with it - there is a time for a creative to stand up for themselves.\n   Bad enough we deal with problems from clients or in-house, or vendors watering down some of the work we do. Now we have to contend with people who were not part of the process taking the work like they were perusing through a supermarket isle? It's not flattering when someone takes my work. It really upsets me. Why? I have a personal and financial investment in my work. It means something to me. It is a violation of my space, my skills and my business that I have worked overtime, seven days a week, so this single father of 4 can makes ends meet. So yeah, I'm going to address the issue to the resolution I see fit for my clients and myself.\n  I applaud Bill Gardner for taking a stand. The more creatives that do stand up, maybe the less we will have to deal with this problem.\n  To Bridget, there are people who get way too involved in this type of drama and are now in your virtual space. I can not condone those actions that go beyond the issue of infringement. I can tell you from watching other designers dragged through the mud... it will pass. Hoping you, Bill and the Energy Board can work this out and move on.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T16:23:50+0000","like_count":4,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23483670","from":{"id":"717356662","name":"Rajesh T Rajan"},"message":"Truly a good post, Bill. You have put down perfectly how a majority of designer's who've worked their backsides off coming up with concepts for brands, see them being used for other brands, albeit with modified colors and tweaks. Be it logos, stationary or even websites. Its disheartening to say the least. On one hand you are raging mad as to 'how they can blatantly rip off your designs and pass it to be their own' & on the other hand - dare I say it - 'its a form of a compliment that they liked your work so much they were too lazy to come with something of their own'. I never use earlier rejected options for new client projects even if the client has liked something. Its just plain wrong and an insult to being a designer. But at the same time, in certain countries like India for example, there is no real governing body that can control blatant creative rape - as I call it. \nIm not saying I agree with what Bridget has done, but after reading her post below I do give her the benefit of doubt in this case - I do understand the position she was in when she was asked to use the logo. I have heard of many instances here from people in the industry wherein designers are asked by superiors or the clients themselves to recreate an existing logo - ofcourse making minor changes, but with it essence intact. Its one of the reasons I decided early on to set up on my own so as to have creative control over my projects. Many a time, in a country where the copyright infringement laws are not outlined very well, the attitude is - We cant get caught. As you so rightly pointed out, a lavish mall in India is currently using a logo which I'm sure an agency would have charged big bucks to design. Unfortunately its so called designers like these that bring a bad name to the other truly hardworking designers out there.\nI don't understand why these designers\/firms don't grasp the concept of creating something original that a client could own for life and you could be proud to be associated with as its designer. One small hiccup or fingerpointing such as in this case - and you have shot all credibility as a designer down the toilet.\nP.S - Pablo Picasso's quote is the most misunderstood quote of all time I guess.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T16:04:05+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23485317","from":{"id":"100000192702169","name":"Daren Guillory"},"message":"Great article and interesting discussion here. It stinks that this happens in our industry. When it does, it isn't good for either party involved. We all learn valuable lessons along the way...","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T18:20:35+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23478449","from":{"id":"1044841954","name":"Bridget M. Skelly"},"message":"As the subject of this post and public humiliation by strangers that know nothing about me, I would like to provide my angle of the story. While I completely understand Bill Gardner's perspective, I would like to provide the other side of the story (as we all know, there are always 2-3 sides to every story). I spoke to Bill for the first time ever this afternoon. He forwarded me an email that he apparently sent me some time ago, but that message either went to my SPAM folder or I assumed it was junk, as I never received it or read it. Nor did I ever receive a voice message from him. I am not calling him a liar \u2013 simply stating that I honestly never received any of his email or voice messages. If I had, I certainly would have discussed the situation with him at that time, rather than discover this debacle overtly via Facebook slander from strangers. \n\nFirst and foremost, the re-creation of this concept and design was not intended to be deliberate or malicious in any way. The original logo design by Brian Miller was discovered online by one of my superiors that tasked me with \u201cdesigning\u201d a logo for BroadLeaf Federal. This was an un-paid job, to be done as a favor to a friend of the CEO of the company I was gainfully employed with at the time (2009). I voiced my concern that re-creating the design would potentially be a copyright infringement, and that there was another company out there using that logo as their brand mark. I was assured that the logo was not used for any other company, that due diligence had been performed, and that it was perfectly okay for this design be re-drawn and re-used as their mark. Feeling uneasy about this, I did my own research to make sure the logo was not in use, and at the time, was unable to obtain evidence that it was (validating what I was being told \u2013 not condoning re-creating it was right). The company it was originally designed for (as indicated on logolounge) had a completely different logo. I was unable to find anything about Southern States Energy Board using the logo when I was searching at the time (as Bill Gardner indicated, Southern States Energy Board adopted the design as their own in 2010). The company, BroadLeaf Federal, is no longer in existence, thus the ripp-off logo is not used to promote their brand (or anyone else\u2019s) in any way.\n\nI apologize for naively following the instructions of my superiors at the time to re-use a design created by someone else. Brian Miller - I hope you are flattered that your design was so incredibly admired that someone else wanted to emulate it. You executed the design beautifully, you're obviously very talented, and I apologize for re-creating it without your permission. I further apologize for my larger mistake of posting the design on my social network page as my own. It has been removed and will never be publicized by me again. I requested that Bill Gardner remove it from (as I do not have that ability as the user that posted it, he does as the site admin.). \n\nWhile I admit this particular incident was against my better judgment as a designer, I do work extremely hard for my clients and my family (myself and two little boys). I have an unblemished history of creating completely original works, with this being one irresponsible indiscretion among thousands of other handcrafted original works. I appreciate that I, as an individual, probably deserve to be beaten up for being stupid. However, as the co-founder of a small (start-up) business, Bridged Design, I must say that the company had absolutely nothing to do with this client or this design. I respectfully implore the administrator of this blog to please remove the link and the reference to the company. Bridged Design is a small company that works extremely long, hard hours for its clients. As a small company, Bridged hires, mentors, challenges, empowers, and supports designers. Bridged instills best practices and ethical design standards (that copying the work of others is unacceptable). So please, if you want to beat me up as a designer that made a faux pas, feel free to insult me to your hearts content. But please, I beseech you to not slander the company that does not deserve this bad publicity.  \n\nKind Regards, \nBridget \n\nP.S. Don\u2019t be a Bridget (or at least learn a valuable lesson from her public degradation indicated here).","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T04:35:05+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23483239","from":{"id":"604180026","name":"Kevin Bush"},"message":"This is irresponsible. There are cease and desist orders for this type of stuff. Open forums just are not the place for this. I can\u2019t count how many times I\u2019ve worked on something and had a stroke of \u201cinspiration\u201d only to look at it again and say; darn it! \u2014that came from \u201cso and so\u201d! I don\u2019t know any designer that hasn\u2019t done that before. Can any creative say they have never experienced that?\n\nBut airing a grievance with another designer in this manner: that\u2019s slander.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T15:29:17+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23486845","from":{"id":"604180026","name":"Kevin Bush"},"message":"Further more this is starting to feel like you\u2019re going after a small business that\u2019s just starting out only because you\u2019re assuming they\u2019re not going to be able to retaliate against you for slander.  \n\nSo a person who made NO money off a mistake should suffer damages to their business all in the name of teaching that person a lesson\u2014.\nWho\u2019s the real victim here?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T20:03:44+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23513119","from":{"id":"766658234","name":"Mike Erickson"},"message":"I think Pablo Picasso meant a whole lot more with that statement.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-04-01T22:22:50+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23489076","from":{"id":"728956630","name":"Josh Mabus"},"message":"My question to Bridget is this: Why would you upload it to logolounge knowing it was a recreation of someone else's work?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T22:47:01+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23484777","from":{"id":"604180026","name":"Kevin Bush"},"message":"There wasn\u2019t a dime made on this and nobody is using the original. That changes my entire perception of the situation. Other than trying to tarnish another designer\u2019s reputation I\u2019m missing the whole point of this blog. Also, if somebody didn\u2019t send me a letter, registered mail, alerting me to this personally I would have issues with this.\n\nHere\u2019s a story; once I had transmission work done on my car. It was a piss-poor job so I called a consumer talk-show to complain on the air. The program director told me I couldn\u2019t use that company\u2019s name. It\u2019d be slander and they\u2019d be liable.\n\nIt was a nice logo. But I think maybe this was a bit over-board. Since no money exchanged hands and this is an out-of-business company it\u2019s not like she was taking bread off of your table. You however have gone above and beyond to soil her company\u2019s name.\n\nDesigning is a business. Other than burying another designer there didn\u2019t seem much gain in posting this blog in the first place.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-03-30T17:36:19+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150650239355233_23534485","from":{"id":"100001284893421","name":"Jeffrey Mardis"},"message":"Ms. Skelly's not any relation to Mr. John Williams of LogoGarden infamy is she?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-04-03T16:04:40+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false}],"paging":{"cursors":{"after":"Mg==","before":"MTU="}}}}}