@jzy pointed me toward this post on copyranter: Ad agency steals logo. Gets caught. Says “blow me.”

The story goes like this. Logo on the left: a 100-year-old monogram for a defunct company called S&Co. Logo on the right: designed by Rich Silverstein for his ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P).

Goodby Silverstein logo

The GS&P monogram was entered into the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and won. It was interesting to read the logo detail on the Cannes Lions winner page.

Description of how you arrived at the final design:

“After playing around with various renditions of the letterforms — from modern typography to more genre-specific — we arrived at a solution that was born out of classic monograms. The forms are purposely somewhat rough, in reference to hand-drawn type. But we have stripped out secondary decorative elements so it has a more modern, austere feel.”

I’ve a feeling the description would be a little different if Rich knew AgencySpy would call-out the similarity.

Disregarding the Cannes Lions and rationale, I found it interesting to see a design so old it’s in the public domain being reused for a different company. It might be free from copyright, but at what cost to the creative impression given of the ad agency? Or, as Rich Silverstein said (below), is such appropriation simply a “big part of our culture?”

Somewhat related, from the LDL archives: When logos look alike


August 18, 2011


Just to be on the fact, it looks like they didn’t win anything. If you search for “Goodby” you can see their various entries, include 3 logotypes: http://www.canneslions.com/work/design/index.cfm?award=101&sort=1&order=1&keywords=goodby&submit.x=47&submit.y=10&submit=Search

However, if you check searching for winners, they do not appear in the results: http://www.canneslions.com/work/design/index.cfm?award=101&sort=1&order=1&winners_only=1&keywords=goodby&submit.x=30&submit.y=12&submit=Search

But the fact that they were accepted to the competition is disturbing enough. It’s one thing to be inspired, like I was when creating our Foture logo, clearly looking up to Microsoft and IBM; and another to just take an old design and put a gradient on it. And explain that it was in fact your intention to take an old logo and just use it. I mean, please…

Who cares, it’s ugly. We copy retro and vintage elements all the time and reuse them for new purposes. How is this any different?

I don’t have any problem with them using the old logo if there is a reason for it, as long as they acknowledge the fact. The original one looks like it’s been drawn better thought and it’s a shame they made it look like a fake metallic computer render.

Why they entered it for a design competition is beyond me and it certainly doesn’t look like an award winning piece of work. But I’d like to see it in context. Perhaps we are missing something to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that they’ve taken a traditionally hand-drawn logo and modified it to a “modern” look and feel with 3D and highlights completely kills the the whole reason you’d want to copy it in first place.

If GS&P acknowledge they used the old logo and explained their reasoning, then maybe they save face.

But to pawn it off as their own, well, there goes their credibility. I’d not want to work with them in case my new logo used to be someone else’s.

I’m not sure if this should have ever been entered for an award, and certainly not without pointing out the origin more clearly. I think Silverstein’s response to the ‘outcry’ is well justified, if a little blunt – this explanation should have been used in the description of the design from the outset. I also think the metallic 3D effect makes the monogram look cheap, that small gap where the ampersand meets the descender of the P is way too narrow. It’s barely visible even at this size. The way the logo is animated on the company website is cliched and the flash site is nasty.

This kind of stuff irks me. It’s like all those damn pop singers who sample tracks. If you aren’t creative enough to make it yourself, work with someone who can. It’s a cop out…if you ask me.

Well, Andy Warhal did it…So what! “Inspiration” is one thing, we all need that at times…Just don’t steal it!! Be the creative designer you are expected to be!

The trouble with copying a public domain logo or a monogram is that anyone is also free to adopt it. Do you run a company that’s in need of a cool-looking logo with similar initials? Just copy the same A. A. Turbayne design. GS&P will have no legal recourse to protect it because you can call it “inspiration” as well.

A more nefarious person might even try to promote their design firm or an ad agency that’s in the same market at GS&P.

Either way, these guys are idiots who conveniently forgot to mention where they got the idea. Only after they were exposed did they backpedal.

Honestly, I don’t really like either version as everything seems mashed together and the letters read out of order.

I don’t have a problem with adaptations or being inspired as long as the re-creator takes the original and puts enough of a spin on it to make it new. However, I do find it questionable when someone passes off their work as new and original when they’ve actually borrowed (or stolen) heavily from a previously created work and they don’t give credit to their source until they’re called out.

I actually like both. If they had just acknowledged that they used an old logo it would have been kosher in my books.

Any designer knows the difference between being inspired by and copying. If it´s ridiculous when we see so many companies copying logos that already exist, it´s even worse when we see an ad agency doing it. For their clients, how can they expect any creativity or originality from it?

That’s sickening. There’s a difference between being inspired by something and blatantly ripping it off. It doesn’t matter, as some commentors might think, that they don’t find it aesthetically pleasing.

The fact that even larger organizations can get away with outright theft of intellectual property (even though it’s out of copyright) should be considered embarrassing to this industry, let alone being ceremoniously applauded for it.

The logo on the left is far superior for a number of reasons: it is the original, has that hand-drawn mark feel and flows better. The ripoff looks slapped together and has that sharp angle on the “G” that looks awkward. Whatever award was given to this it should have been taken away, just as they took Milli Vanilli’s Grammy back in the day…

This isn’t inspiration, it is downright plagiarism.

Girl, you know it’s true.

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