It is the mark of a true artist to create something unique and something that is original every time he is asked to deliver. Be it a piece of music, an article, a business card design, or a logo; if it’s not original, it won’t last. In the brisk world of business today, it has become synonymous with success to have a great attractive logo, which can help your brand to make its mark and get it identified in the minds of the people.
The purpose of having a logo is simple; to get noticed. It is evident from the enormity of this task that a logo requires tremendous amount of attention, it should be well thought out, thoroughly researched and acutely relevant to the brand that it is going to promote. The more work a company or a client puts in, the better chances they have of having a terrific logo. It is needless to say that the image that is going to carry the promotion of your product should be smart, artistic, original and unique. What to do then, if a client asks a designer to create a logo that looks similar to some other brand’s logo just because they want to play it safe? If a client wants to save himself from failure, overlooks the essential features of a logo design, and settles for the second best, what is a designer supposed to do?
• A Fine Line….And Slippery Too!
Art is all about inspiration. Be it a song you heard or a rainbow you saw, anything and everything under the sun can become the inspiration for your creativity. When a client comes to you and mentions some big brand logos, indicating their preference for the tried and tested, it is your duty as a creative person to gently guide them away from such troublesome waters. And you never know what starts as ‘just a hint of this and that” might lead up to a lawsuit and get you into big time trouble. Not to mention the fact that it shows a lack of artistic integrity when you rip off someone else’s work and pass it on as your own.
A similar design always gets noticed and is always looked down upon, for if your logo is not original, who is to say that, your product is? It is actually putting the integrity of your brand on the line, taking a huge risk when you try to imitate someone else’s already famous logo just so you won’t have to come up with your own, or even if it is because you really like their style, you are not being fair to your client. If the client wants their logo to be an imitated version of some other company, it is bad; but if a designer does it on his own, it’s worse! An artist is always true to his heart, and that heart never allows him to ‘borrow” someone else’s hard work for his own purposes. Imitation has got nothing to do with inspiration; in fact it shows an abundant lack of it.
• What Real Creatives Say?
When I decided to write on the subject, I wanted to know what real professionals thought about it and I received fantastic responses from designers as well as a people coming from different walks of life; people who understandand believe in the importance of free imagination and ingenuity. On a LinkedIn thread, we discussed how in reality we create nothing and merely plagiarize nature. Similarly, in logo design, the best we can do is to expect our work to be distinctive and doing justice to the brand. If it is clean, simple, and unique; it will be remembered by the customers world over. If it looks trite, it is doomed to fade away quickly. Read some of the responses we got and feel free to join the conversation there:
"This doesn’t really answer your question, but here’s a story from my personal experience:
I recently had someone contact me wanting a logo. They had seen one in my portfolio on my website and wanted one just like it, just change the name. I told them that logo was owned by my current client and I could not duplicate it, but we could come up with some different that was original for them. They got mad at me and never went through with doing business with me. I could not believe that a business owner would want to rip off a logo like that!"
"As Picasso said: “Good artists copy but great artists steal”.
I had to sign a disclaimer once, because I not only deliberately copied an ‘iconic’ image, but insisted on make it as close to the original as possible without it actually being identical, rather than some watered down version that had been ‘influenced’ by it.
Ironically, the client was more worried about the hand-lettered typestyle which they considered was the original artist’s trademark… so I downloaded the (free) font based on his lettering and (begrudgingly) used that, with a few tweaks.
I even went as far as contacting the (deceased) artist’s website to ask if they considered it a ‘tribute’ or a ‘rip-off’. They gave it the green light; I gave him a credit, and nothing untoward happened.
On the other hand, I did come down hard on a fashion store that was selling t-shirts using an ancient design I was involved with from 25 years previously. Funnily enough, they had actually used the handwriting