design ripoffs 2

It happens all the time. A couple will come to me with a stationery design they found online or in a magazine and say they want “exactly this.” My response is that should hire THAT designer instead of asking me to rip off someone else’s hard work.

I use internet images for inspiration just like everyone else. It’s a great tool but it would never occur to me to try to duplicate what another designer made. But that happens. If you Google “chevron wedding invitations,” the image results from across the worldwide web are shockingly similar, with a few unique standouts. Why is that?

All designers (graphic, fashion, interior, etc.) deal with their work being copied. It is frustrating to spend time creating original art only to see it copied into a knock-off. We all know the classic statement, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And there is probably more truth than we care to admit in William Faulkner’s observation that, “immature artists copy, great artists steal.”

design ripoffs

Unfortunately, too many designers are OK with stealing. The image above is a perfect example of this. Being “inspired by” an original creation is one thing. What we have here is blatant duplication. And this wasn’t the only time this happened between these two designers.

invitation design ripoffs

The invitation designs on the left belong to a friend of mine. The ones on the right were created later by someone who liked them so much she started selling her own versions. Booo! That’s stealing and it’s really not cool.

In the age of the Internet, EVERYTHING is on display all the time. You can’t create something and put it online without it being discoverable by the entire world. The two examples above are both available for purchase on Etsy right now and my friend is getting in touch with them about her copyright infringement.

Every stationery designer I know has experienced this. Cease-and-desist letters are never fun to write but I sent out a half-dozen every year. Here at à deux, that mess doesn’t happen and it’s never tolerated. I won’t repeat a stationery design that I created exclusively for the couple it was made for. If I won’t even copy myself, I certainly won’t do it to a colleague.

Yes, I see my work being knocked off all the time but I don’t worry about it too much. Those lesser designers aren’t me and the people who are buying those aren’t getting my experience, my energy or my dedication to the craft. My job is to stay ahead of the trends and be better than I was last year. Once I’ve created a design, it’s done. Those other designers can copy at will and try to keep up, I guess.


3 Comments on Copying is stealing

  1. martha
    January 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm (3 years ago)

    Well said, as always! 🙂

  2. Wendy
    January 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm (3 years ago)

    You couldn’t have said it any better.

  3. Kelly
    January 28, 2015 at 8:28 pm (3 years ago)

    Bravo for an excellent post. My work was once copied by a designer who even copied the names of the bride and groom and the wedding date. Since that design was created for friends of mine, I was doubly insulted. That said, in the images above, there is no comparison in the artistry…the original design is so much better because when you are trying to “copy” you are probably more worried about including every detail from the original than you are about making sure you own finished piece looks good on its own. Great artists “steal” inspiration because not trying to outright copy enables you to be creative in your own way with a concept you’ve seen elsewhere.


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