Just as I was about to sign off this evening, I was tagged in an interesting message on Instagram and it’s left me bothered in a number of ways. It also raises some interesting questions, which is why I’ve decided to share it here.
The message I was tagged in was from Sarah Scott and posted to an image from a designer named Chris Cureton. Probably best to check that out before reading further.
Ok, now you’ve looked at that image, good. If you’ve been following FFF on social media over the last couple of weeks you might have thought ”Damn, that looks a lot like the new FFF logo!”. That’s certainly what I thought and I should know – I designed the new FFF logo.
So if,”that looks very, very like the new FormFiftyFive logo” was my first thought, my second thought was, ”Ok, so this guy has ripped us off”. I did stop for a second to ponder whether it could be coincidence, then decided all things considered It was too similar and I wasn’t willing to give Chris the benefit of the doubt.
By now I’d shown my wife and was considering something cheeky and mildly amusing to write on Chris’ Instagram page, when she asked “when did he post his?”. As it was brought to my attention this evening, I’d assumed Chris’ image was new, however checking the date, Chris posted his image 17 weeks ago. A good 15 weeks before we made ours public. Fuck.
So, in an instant the tables had turned. The person I’d basically just decided to call out for plagiarism, for creating a marque so close to the new FFF logo that I wasn’t willing to accept it could coincidence, created his first. I Felt a little bit sick for a moment, realising that Chris’ finger would now likely be pointed at me and how could I blame him given my own reaction moments earlier?
At this point, I started writing an email directly to Chris to assure him I hadn’t seen his marque until this evening, basically went over the chain of events/thoughts already mentioned in this post.
I then went on to explain that ours had been created completely independently and stressed that the obvious similarities were coincidental. I put my case to Chris threefold:
Firstly, Glenn Garriock and I had been working on the development of the new FormFiftyFive identity on and off for over a year, we finally reached our chosen logo after many, many iterations which gradually led to the chosen design. I offered to send those developments to Chris if it would help reassure him that ours had been created independently of his.
Next I have professional pride in what I do and the thought that a fellow designer believes I’ve blatantly ripped them off really, really bothers me.
Finally I explained that beyond the integrity aspect, FormFiftyFive has got almost 40k followers on Twitter – most of whom of whom are designers – the idea of intentionally aping another designers work and expecting not to be called out on it just wouldn’t be very smart. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will make the connection and It’s certainly not a risk I’d take, especially with FormFiftyFive, a project we set up eight years ago to celebrate the best in design.
Following that email, Chris replied and shared his thoughts. Understandably his goal is to maintain his own integrity, there are a lot of eyes on FormFiftyFive and he’s concerned that it could look like he copied the new FFF logo, to anyone unaware his had been created first. So even if he’s willing to accept it’s coincidence, he’d rather we not continue using it.
So to summarise, there’s no doubt the marques a very, very similar and if I’d seen Chris’ first, I’d never have decided to go with the design we have. However, I didn’t see Chris’ logo and we have gone with that design. This is where the interesting questions arise. At this point is it reasonable for Chris to ask us to discontinue use? I’m no expert in copyright law, so perhaps? And even if it isn’t, should we have some ethical obligation to remove a logo which we created independently and in good faith before we knew such a similar marque already existed?
Is it back to the drawing board? I’d be really interested to hear people’s thoughts on this subject.