Optimum Design & Consulting? Copyright Fail and Design Theft

This one stings a bit.

Luckily my design wasn’t stolen (that would make the 6th time this year) but everything else was: including my Google Analytics code. And maybe that is why it stings a bit, because I saw “optimum design” in my keywords report (for a few months now) but thought nothing of it. I shrugged it off because I also saw “movie bird poo makes boy invisible” in my keywords too…

Optimum Design & Consulting Sursly Steal

But back to NYC-based Optimum Design & Consulting. Given their “design” I’m wishing they had copied my graphics, too, but oh well. Several people that I’ve shown this too have noticed that the site has a rather large blurb (under “resources”) on copyrighting. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“In today’s tough business climate, there has been a disturbing trend among professionals in the commercial visual arts to sidestep the issue of copyrights. In part, designers and illustrators are becoming reluctant to raise the issue of copyright in the fear losing clients. Ignorance of he concept of copyrights among young or inexperienced designers and illustrators is also a factor. Unfortunately, this situation contributes to the erosion of creative rights and the loss of income for the entire visual arts community.”

Learn more about Optimum Design & Consulting’s stance on Copyrighting here. If you view it on “their” site it will popup in a sweet HighSlide box.

This post isn’t to trash Lara and Rebecca (of OD&C) and despite the ridiculousness above I wish them well in business, especially these days. That being said, there is a larger issue here that I’ve really only touched upon quickly in a previous blog post, on Twitter and now a somewhat permanent footer message on my site. The offenders (below) haven’t stolen clients from me, or cost me business, or made any personal attacks other than taking my work (and sometimes, taking credit for it). But apparently this is happening to designers everywhere.

Aside from the Google insight above (and the first site rip by Gurdeep) all of these have been brought to my attention by other people, either on Twitter or email. The first few were somewhat flattering and since the rippers were so far removed (outside the US) I wasn’t particularly bothered. But when I saw that Jason (below) not only graduated from the same college as me but also works in the same city as me (designing, no less) I was appalled. And very surprised.

So I sent gentle emails to everone requesting that they remove my graphics/content. Some of them complied (see for yourself, I’m linking to the sites that originally had the rip). Others didn’t (I’m looking at you, Nazmul). Let’s take a look at the “bio” page for each of these.

B3ckstage site ripJason Schwarz site rip Nazmul site rip Kristian Carter site rip Gurdeep's site rip

Sweet pictures, fellas.

Now that I’ve gotten that awkward introduction out of the way I’d like to propose a 3-step process for future offenders (of any work, really):

1) Stop and think. Not about whether or not you should do it (obviously you shouldn’t). Think about what you like so much about the design (website/logo/whatever). Are you blown away by the font usage? Does the texture/light make it pop? Find out what it is that you’re attracted to first before you end up on a list like this (and have your name dragged through the mud on Twitter). Critique your reaction as much as you would the actual work.

2) Get some perspective. Click around inspiring galleries (logopond, bestwebgallery, ffffound to name a few) for 10 minutes (but stop there) and then walk away, because now that you’re inspired you need to come up with something somewhat original. Can’t think of something it? Partner up with someone who can. Email the original creator for inspiration. If you don’t have the technical ability to pull it off, hit Google. You’ll learn more in a few hours of searching than you could in some university-level classes (mostly because the internet is so immediate and ever-changing, not all courses can keep up).

3) Experiment until you’re happy. You shouldn’t rush yourself (unless you work better that way). That being said, if you’ve spent months on something and you’re still not happy, experiment in a different direction. Experiment in something you’re good at. I know that I’m not a programmer, so I won’t mess around in Javascript even with Google as a resource. I’ll ask for help, or find an open-source solution. If you’re a pro at a certain style, process or program: go all out. I don’t consider myself a pro at any particular design area, but rather comfortable in all areas (a well-roundedness that is both wonderful and frustrating).

So…

If you’ve copy/pasted my/someone’s source code you’re not in trouble until someone else sees it (and they will see it). You’re not in trouble at all if you use it as inspiration or education to create something original, something different. But if you’ve left someone else’s Analytics code in you might want to re-think things a bit. Doubly so if you’re a consulting company.