August 18, 2011

Love Thy Logo

Charlatan, Huckster, Moron, Thief!

Author: Bill Gardner

Topic: Branding Identity

Preamble: I am a DESIGNER. If I'm to make a living at it I have to CREATE something that has value to someone else. Like most of us, we create out of thin air. As a rule, identity designers are a pretty smart band of folk. If our work is successful it's because we ask the right questions and understand the ramifications of our design decisions. We know how to coax the life out of a line or how to prompt a memory in the public's conscious. And if we calmly and intuitively seem to know when a mark is right, it's because we scrapped our ass off to get there.

The Intro:

August 14, I receive an email from Von Glitschka asking if I was aware of the site or that they had posted a number of Gardner Design's logos for sale. Cut to their URL and it's a "Do It Yourself" logo and business card site for $79. They have "created" thousands of logos for you to select from. Place them with type and add color and they'll take your money. Thank you.

A page of Bear options looks like designer bingo with theft of logos from Michael Vanderbyl, Landor, James Lienhart, Mitre Agency, Richards Brock Miller and Mitchell, and Gardner Design and who knows who else.

Bastards. There are three of my logos on the front page assigned to new companies with testimonials by each emoting about the exceptional service and tremendous design. Look, there's a logo by Felix Sockwell and another by Tracy Sabin and a couple by Paul Howalt. Shit these guys have Tom Geismar, Michael Vanderbyl, and Landor doing stuff for them, or at least their logos are there. It looks like I could own the World Wildlife panda or the Time Warner mark for a song.

Time Warner and the World Wildlife Fund logos up for sale. Has this company no shame?

The Dig:

Move beyond the front page and do some serious digging. According to John Williams the owner of the site he's able to offer "10,000 new symbols designed by John himself and his hand-picked team of world-class logo designers." That's hand-picked as in picked our pockets. Just click on a field of interest and page after page of world-class work is waiting to be snagged by the next unsuspecting rube.

After paging through a few thousand marks I had amassed just shy of 200 Gardner Design logos for sale. Each mark had been auto traced and then ever so slightly modified. A cluster of three bubbles in the water became two. A bird that faced right now faces left. A cat's tail that was straight now has a crook at the end of it. Our attorney's letter to the sites owner summed up this nuance modification nicely as follows. "In fact, such action by you clearly indicates that your infringement was with full knowledge that you did not have a right to copy these images and constitutes willful copyright infringement."

Five of nearly 200 cases of Gardner Design logos that have been ripped off.

Cease and Desist:

Most of the designers I've been in touch with have had their attorneys contact Mr. Williams. Several of the corporations whose logos are registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office are also taking action. Frankly, I encourage you to visit the sight and pound through the garden to identify the works of yours or your fellow designers. Screen shoot these and pass them along to the unaware designer victims so they too can take action. With a concerted effort from those that toiled to create the product this man is hocking, he might start to get a little heartburn.

The infamous John Williams

Brandishing himself across the internet as an award-winning designer and self-proclaimed brand guru, a quick look at John Williams life shows him establishing, then starting, another do it yourself logo site. is registered with additional domains in Canada, the UK and Germany so who knows what kind of world domination he has planned now that he's built a model on the backs of and out of the cupboards of others.

Your Turn:

This guys brazen timidity is unmatched. I've met him before, or at least others that have no remorse or moral compass. What ever happens here will probably be in direct proportion to your own sense of outrage or willingness to dig in and confront John Williams. The general public has no idea where this work came from or that it is not his to sell. They will find they have paid a price for a pound of pain once they too discover the deception.

You'll note I avoided going on a tirade about the issues with the $100 internet logo firms. They have foibles that too deserve penance but designers have no forgiveness for theft. Thou shall not steal another designers work.

I am a THIEF. If I'm to make a living at it I have to STEAL something that has value to someone else.

{"http:\/\/\/content\/column.php?id=88":{"comments":{"data":[{"id":"10150401805127166_20745700","from":{"id":"584788303","name":"Gert van Duinen"},"message":"Making a lot of noise regarding these theft \/ plagiarism issues is probably the best way to burn this whole pile of thievery down to the ground. I'd like to thank Jeff Fisher, Bill Gardner and a few other brave hearts for their continuing efforts to bring this to our attention, and more importantly to the attention of the general public who doesn't have a clue about these fraudulent and questionable business, while being in great danger too.","message_tags":[{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher","type":"user","offset":163,"length":11}],"can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T15:27:00+0000","like_count":29,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20804623","from":{"id":"1002672772","name":"Rex Peteet"},"message":"Now that the National AIGA has sent out an \"Alert\" to the international membership and beyond, I think it would be wise for John Williams to heed the now numerous requests to Cease and Desist, while folks are being nice (at least as far as I know). But then good judgement hasn't really been his strong suit to date. After sifting through mounds of awful stuff we are still seeing many direct lifts and crude imitations of SPDA work and many others in spite of the outcry. Also, probably not a good idea for him to post his picture as the\"branding coach\". Thanks, Bill, for the heads up.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-20T18:43:14+0000","like_count":15,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20776746","from":{"id":"1328521472","name":"Emily Potts"},"message":"AIGA has now put out a call to action on this, thanks to Bill's article.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T17:04:49+0000","like_count":12,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20745307","from":{"id":"891205525","name":"Adam Epp"},"message":"Check out the killer logo I just designed in their DIY section: https:\/\/\/20110818-qjaa51qi5tk3yy44r8tnikxyy2.jpg.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T15:08:06+0000","like_count":13,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_25226129","from":{"id":"10504229","name":"Chris O'Connor"},"message":"He even plagiarized his name from a well known composer.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-02-23T16:41:19+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20744955","from":{"id":"1535343960","name":"Brent Pelloquin"},"message":"Bill, thank your for your post. We appreciate you spreading the word about this. Blatant abuse like this has to stop. \n\nPlease let all designers affected know that they should contact LogoGarden's site host, Rackspace.\n\nGo to the following link to fill out their Copyright Notice:\nhttp:\/\/\/information\/legal\/copyrightnoticessl.php\n\nWe (Prejean Creative) filled out the form yesterday detailing the full list of the (28) logos of ours we found on the LogoGarden site. I personally combed through the site first thing this morning and only (4) of the (28) remained. \n\nI also received an email this AM from a Rackspace CSR saying they contacted LogoGarden and LogoGarden had notified them that the material in question was removed. Rackspace's email ended with the following statement: \n\n\"Please review the site in question to make a determination of compliance. If there are any outstanding issues with this matter please let me know so that I can take the necessary action to resolve this matter. \n\n Please contact us within the next 14 days. If we do not hear from you by August 31, 2011 we will consider this matter resolved. Thank you.\"\n\nSo, bottom line, this route seems to be the quickest and most effective way to get your stolen logos removed from the site. Rackspace has the ability to put some immediate pressure on them.\n\nI urge all designers to contact Rackspace as soon as possible. Seems to be working.\n\nI'm following up with Rackspace right now concerning the few remaining logos.\n\nThanks again for spreading the word.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T14:50:31+0000","like_count":9,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20745239","from":{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher"},"message":"Thanks for a great article, Bill! Over the past few days, I've been making a lot of noise about this issue. Most of the 20+ logos of mine on the site have now been taken down as of this morning. A few still remain. As of last night I still saw logos posted that were created by Christopher Simmons, Maggie Macnab and many others. Here's the blog entry I posted prior to my images being removed: http:\/\/\/LGrips11.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T15:04:59+0000","like_count":5,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20883729","from":{"id":"781191179","name":"Matthew L. Porter"},"message":"Can we file a class action law suit against this charlatan?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-23T19:20:15+0000","like_count":4,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_23171782","from":{"id":"1146070117","name":"David Alexander"},"message":"Matthew Porter has the right idea with a class action lawsuit, if that's doable. If the worst that happens to this guy is he has to take a few logos down why should he stop?  This is where an organization like the AIGA could be doing more than sending out an alert, I think.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-11-24T17:19:20+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20748336","from":{"id":"1309812521","name":"Tad Dobbs"},"message":"Great post, and I'm glad to hear that some of the logos are starting to be removed. Unfortunately, that won't stop Mr. Williams from pilfering others' work, and duping small business owners. We'll have to continue to police the site if it stays up. Ideally, I'd like to see Mr. Williams hit the big time with a stories running on the news, articles in major publications and blogs and even a logo designers discussing the issue on the Colbert Report or The Daily Show. We need to destroy his credibility with his target market.\n\nI've searched for articles by John Williams, and posted comments on every one that I can to spread the news to his target market. I received an email from one of the bloggers this morning indicating that he removed all links from the guest post, approved mine and another designer's comments, and sent Mr. Williams an email to address the issue. He said that he will post additional comments regarding Mr. Williams response, or remove the post altogether. I encourage everyone to take Jeff's advice and make some noise outside of the design community to educate his target market.\n\nThanks so much to Bill and Jeff for working so hard to bring attention to this issue.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T17:21:26+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20801512","from":{"id":"559596218","name":"Paul Black"},"message":"Bill, just checked out their site. Found a few of mine , one of Jon Flemming's, etc. Shameless bastard. Hope the corporate lawyers burry him...","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-20T16:16:36+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20777433","from":{"id":"772197304","name":"Adam Rowe"},"message":"Great to see AIGA stepping in and calling out these \u201cidentity\u201d thieves! Huge props to Bill Gardner and Jeff Fisher.","message_tags":[{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher","type":"user","offset":103,"length":11}],"can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T17:36:56+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_21058713","from":{"id":"510586330","name":"Carly H. Franklin"},"message":"I wouldn't stop at demanding he remove the images from the site, I'd full-on sue the bastard! He could just close that site down and put up another one and be doing the same thing, albeit perhaps more quietly, until he gets caught again. All the designers whose work has been stolen should get together and sue him as a group.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-30T01:58:05+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_22710893","from":{"id":"100000404051096","name":"Alicia Lockwood"},"message":"I'm going to school at Bryant & Stratton College right now for Graphic Design..The first thing they pound into our heads are \" Don't PLAGIARISE!\"...Hell, we are taught that as kids!   ~ Alicia L. ~","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-11-05T17:45:53+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20778070","from":{"id":"1351281144","name":"Todd K Christensen"},"message":"Here is what I just sent Williams:\n\nDear sirs,\n\nOn the prompting of an AIGA email alert I have been casually perusing your library of \"logos\" for only a scant few minutes and so far I have found at least five fairly solid cases for direct misappropriation of other people's creative work. Some very well-known major corporation identities in the mix.\n\nFrankly it's shocking.\n\nYour business model is a brazen use of other peoples work and is unacceptable.  Prepare for a total and thorough shit-storm of thousands of angry designers to descend upon you and I would assume the likelihood of law-suits.\n\nI would have thought somebody who would so intentionally attempt such intellectual piracy would've had the foresight to situate his business on an abandoned off-shore oil-rig or at least harbor his headquarters in Somalia or Syria or some such outlaw state. But in Delaware?\n\nI don't know if I should salute your brass balls or suspect the latent onset effects fetal alcohol syndrome. If I find work of mine on this site you will be hearing from lawyers.\n\nI think you'd better begin reviewing and scrubbing your site. \n\nPS. if you are underling of some sort and in the employ of Logo Garden reading this (if there IS anybody reading these anymore), before passing it on to a supervisor, my advice to you is to immediately begin sending out resumes because this company will be sued out of existence within three to four months.\n\n\u2014Yours Angrily","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T18:04:31+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20781250","from":{"id":"636273666","name":"Amy Anderson"},"message":"Wow! I love the graphic designer logos! I'd pay 80 bucks for one of those. I bet I would get job interviews left and right! It never occurred to me to buy my logo rather than designing my own!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T20:37:23+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20744933","from":{"id":"1542044451","name":"Tan Le"},"message":"this is criminal fraud, plain and simple. It's so wrong that nothing really needs to be said further. I wish AIGA had some sort of black ops Mossad-type squad that would hunt down these bastards and make them \"disappear\" quietly.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T14:49:39+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20746462","from":{"id":"632293067","name":"Robynne Raye"},"message":"Informative post Bill, thank you.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T15:59:59+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20744757","from":{"id":"220301250","name":"Sean Farrell"},"message":"Isn't there anything we can do about this?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T14:40:52+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_21098074","from":{"id":"1053334313","name":"Dave Brezina"},"message":"A lot of those look like they are copyrightable (not everything would be -- the Bass ale triangle, for example, is a simple geometric shape that would be uncopyrightable, even though it was the first registered trademark) which could be a right that remains in the designer.  A  DIY copyright registration, in the US, online, costs you a $35 government fee.  Copyright and trademark have some significant differences.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-31T12:33:09+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_22161397","from":{"id":"1147481003","name":"Joe Dyer"},"message":"One of my dearest friends is a designer at RackSpace. I turned him onto this post and he has alerted the appropriate people from within. Let's hope this brings the hammer down.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-10-12T18:58:19+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20747129","from":{"id":"100002195568048","name":"Scott Lewis"},"message":"Thanks for the great article. I have been corresponding with Jeff Fisher and several other designers about this a lot over the past few days. I also have a post on my blog about this at http:\/\/\/design\/more-logo-thievery\/ - let's keep making noise and get organized if we can. We really need to keep the pressure mounting to, at the very least, get the stolen work off of the site. Ideally I would like to see Mr. Williams prosecuted and the folks who are using the stolen logos stop using them. I realize that they are all victims too but they can't use copyrighted works. When they start feeling the pain then hopefully they will join our campaign against LogoGarden too.","message_tags":[{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher","type":"user","offset":61,"length":11}],"can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T16:27:31+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20753067","from":{"id":"209700081","name":"Jonah Cohen"},"message":"It's just such a shame that we've spent so much of our academic and professional careers sharpening our craft and someone with an idea belittles it all with compassionless and unadulterated theft.  There goes the neighborhood. \n\nI, however, am glad we all shouted about this from the mountaintops that are our computer chairs. Just about anyone with a design background has heard about this and are speaking up on behalf of all of us. Cheers to our craft!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-18T20:45:57+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20770807","from":{"id":"628197004","name":"Jeff Bruzdzinski"},"message":"Appalling! The fake companies and testimonials on Logo Garden's homepage are priceless. I cannot find one that really exists..and I love how all the \"company\" websites looks the same from their \"Pop-up\" menus. Too funny and sad. Logo theft should be stopped. Thanks for sharing.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T12:23:26+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150401805127166_20779993","from":{"id":"630048595","name":"Brenton Smith"},"message":"Someone needs to permanently revoke his design license. If only we had those. Maybe Adobe can refuse to ever license Creative Suite to him or his companies ever again.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2011-08-19T19:40:39+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false}],"paging":{"cursors":{"after":"Mjk=","before":"NTM="},"next":"https:\/\/\/10150401805127166\/comments?limit=25&after=Mjk\u00253D"}}}}