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Old 16.01.2006, 13:35   #1
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Default Inspiration, imitation or innovation - how do designers create unique identities?

Некоторое время назад по всей сети нашумел новый логотип Quark, который был как две капли похож на логотип Scottish Arts Council. Вот интересная статья о всей этой истории, и не только:
Inspiration, imitation or innovation - how do designers create unique identities?
By Jeff Fisher, Engineer of Creative Identity, Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

In September of this year, with great public relations fanfare, the software company Quark introduced their new corporate identity. In presenting the new image, Quark corporate communications director Glen Turpin touted it as a “fresh, inviting and open” symbol representing a “q” letterform. Designers around the world, on numerous online forums and boards, quickly noticed a similarity to the identity symbols and icons of a variety of firms.

From a basic design point of view, it would appear that the new Quark image is simply not as “fresh,” as touted in the press as the new image was rolled out. It seems to be much too similar to the identity symbol of the Scottish Arts Council (which reportedly was introduced in 2001), the logo of, the U.K. based marketing firm Alcone, The Designers Network, Sterling Brands and the lower case “a” in designer Dirk Uhlenbrock’s 1998 typeface “Girl.” Each of those examples resembles the “new” Quark image fairly closely - and it would personally make me uncomfortable submitting such a design concept to any client. I wonder if the shape used is the “swoosh” of this decade. During the boom the swoosh seemed to be an easy option for an Internet company logo and many logos seemed quite similar.

It would seem that someone involved in the Quark identity process really dropped the ball in regards to an identity image search. In published reports a Quark spokesperson is quoted as saying the firm made “extensive checks to discover any similar existing logos [but] we evidently didn't find them all.” Is that explanation good enough? Will it satisfy those entities with similar logos?

Even so, in the article, “Sometimes a Logo is Just a Logo,” contributing editor Gene Gable writes: “Quark’s real trouble with its new logo is not a legal one. It’s a public relations snafu that must be handled appropriately. Quark should voluntarily change the mark and cite respect for the creativity of other organizations as the reason. (Quark says it has variations on the logo; perhaps one of those differs enough to pour oil on troubled waters.) If the company has already printed a lot of material with the controversial logo, the monetary cost of a change will be high. But what is the cost of the design community’s ire?”

It is certainly not a bad thing for the design community to be vigilant and bring to light situations of similar or copied designs. I see nothing wrong with designers questioning whether an identity is “inspired by” another image, blatantly stolen or an “honest mistake.” Quark set themselves up for the received response - their client base is the profession of often very critical designers.

How can designers avoid having such similarities occur?
The Quark identity situation is a call for all creative professionals to push themselves harder in their creative efforts. While I have hundreds of design books on my shelves, I seldom flip through the volumes for inspiration when working on a new project. My best ideas come from my first impressions based on the initial input from a client. I also immediately try to steer clients away from their comments like “I want a logo that looks just like such-and-such a company.”

With concepts being fine-tuned it is then time to do your homework and determine if the design is unique enough to present to clients - by whatever means available: Self research, a trademark attorney, a image search firm or even relying on the eyes of designers on forums.

David E. Carter’s 1999 book “Bullet-Proof Logos: Creating great designs which avoid legal problems” is a valuable resource for any identity designer. In his book, Carter suggests that three types of logos help designers avoid infringement issues:

1.) Name in type: A simple type treatment of a business name can often set it apart from other firms in a graphically pleasing manner. His book offers examples such as Sony, Boeing, Casio and Chanel.

2.) Name in modified type: The unique modification of a typeface, in representing a company name, can present a logo that cannot be easily duplicated. The identities of Compaq, radius, Microsoft, Eaton and Canon represent this type of image in the book.

3.) Name in type with a secondary device: I use this a lot in creating logos that incorporate a unique art element as a letterform, or specific design element within a type treatment, which then limits the possibility of the design being "borrowed." Many identities that face infringement issues are those with a simple graphic symbol, often a geometric shape, slapped up next to a simple type treatment of the name. Several of my own logos are used as examples of this type of logo in Carter’s book.

In addition to the advice in his book, David E. Carter offered some additional input for this column. He adds, “Copying the work of others began with cave art maybe 30,000 years ago. The Internet has made it easier than ever to steal ideas. But for the graphic thief who is caught, the minimal problem is being exposed as a cheat; the worst that can happen is that the big company can sue your pants off, and you lose everything you own.”

“(The) best bet is to do original work, and make it bullet-proof,” says Carter, “especially if it’s going to be used in more than a local market.”

Most of the logos designed by John Wingard Design, the firm of Creative Latitude member John Wingard, are based typographic on solutions with the letterforms manipulated in some way. According to Wingard emphasizing the name of the business accomplishes two things.

“First, the name of the business becomes the driving force for branding and marketing, says the Hawaii-based designer, “A large amount of time and resources can be spent trying to build recognition of an icon that represents a business. When a typographic solution is used, the brand equity is quickly built on the on the letterforms and the company name.”

“Second, because the business name has been registered and is unique, the chance for infringement is much lower with a typographic logo than an icon,” he adds.

Tim Frame, of Tim Frame Design, tries to look at as much relative material as possible when researching a project. This includes a visual reference of design publications, annuals, and web sites, as well as the identities of competitive companies or related businesses. The reason for this is two-fold according to Frame: first, to make sure that what is created is unique and distinctly different from the competition; secondly, to make sure that any ideas are not closely related to something that is already being used by someone else.

“The more you research and familiarize yourself with the work of others, the more aware you are of what’s already been done,” says Frame. “I tend to assume that when I’ve designed something extremely simple, that most likely someone else has already come up with this before; I which case I would eliminate the concept from consideration, or insist that it be trademark searched before giving it any further consideration.”

How "similar" is too similar?
“Naturally there are going to be ideas and designs that are very similar even though created independently of each other,” according to Frame. “I’ve had students unknowingly create logos that are very similar to logos that I’ve seen, but more than likely they’ve never seen, because they have limited access to reference resources.”

“That’s not to say that all similarities are coincidence, and that there isn’t copying going on, or that some logos aren’t mere adaptations of existing designs,” adds Frame.

In the business world, the legality of a design similarity is often going to be determined in court or through legal mediations. The matters of intent and damage to another business are just two of the considerations to be weighed. In the case of Quark, I think it will be interesting to see if the Scottish Arts Council or some other entity initiates a legal challenge - or if some other form of settlement is reached.

The 1976 NBC logo case comes to mind. I was in design school at the time and students and instructors watched the situation closely. offers the following account: “On New Year’s Day, 1976, NBC’s visual trademark was updated, as a stylized ‘N’ was introduced, consisting of two trapezoids. The design was bold, bright and contemporary. In February 1976, NBC was sued by the Nebraska ETV network for trademark infringement since the new NBC logo was virtually identical to the ETV logo. An out-of-court settlement was reached in which NBC gave ETV new equipment and a mobile color unit (valued at over $800,000) in exchange for allowing NBC to retain their logo. In addition, NBC paid $55,000 to ETV to cover the cost of designing and implementing a new logo.”

That’s an expensive logo. Back then, prior to Internet access, most in the design community were amazed such a thing could happen – especially within the same industry.

How do you go about such a search?
The responsibility for such searches is most likely going to be established in negotiations with the business seeking a new identity and the firm hired to do the work. It may be the legal department of a major corporation, a hired firm that specializes in identity searches or someone on the staff of the design firm/department.

The introduction in Carter’s book, “Bullet Proof Logos: Logo Law 101,” written by trademark attorney James H. Higgins, Jr., offers excellent trademark advice for any identity designer. Higgins explains that there is no total legal guarantee in creating a “bullet-proof” logo. However, he does think that by making use of two steps the designer will be protecting their identity efforts. First, the design must fulfill an “identity” requirement of the legal definition of a trademark. The logo should be made up of more than simple geometric shapes and words used in the name should identify your company as the single source of what your company provides. Secondly, the logo needs to meet the “distinguish” portion of the legal requirement. “The logo (both design and any word used) must be differentiated from pre-existing logos so to avoid confusion,” according to Higgins.

Higgins does suggest hiring a firm to do a trademark search in regards to both the wording used in a composite mark and the design element of the logo. Documentation of such a search also demonstrates the good faith of a company in attempting to avoid confusion with any other identities.

“No trademark or logo search is perfect, however, because even unregistered marks and logos (which can be quite difficult to locate) have legal rights,” writes Higgins. “However, if a search of proper scope is conducted, the amount of risk will be substantially mitigated.”

My own small business clients often are not going to have the financial resources for a major identity comparison search. As a one-person design shop I do my best to research my own design concepts with online searches and the resources of my own graphic design book library of a couple hundred volumes. My project agreement will often make such clients responsible for their own searches, as well as trademarking the design - which may mean bringing in their own trademark attorney or search firm.

“Because we like to do work that’s not just following trends, I usually use logo books and websites as a reference for what’s being done right now,” designer Wingard contributes. “Then we ask ‘Where are things going to be in the next few years?’ and move in that direction.”

Larger corporate clients usually take on their own searches through their legal departments or relationships with firms who specialize in searches.

“The majority of my work is done for other, larger design firms, so I leave the trademark search and registration issues to them since they are essentially buying my artwork and presenting it as their own in most cases,” according to Tim Frame. “For clients that I’m working with directly, I state in my initial proposal or contract that they are responsible for all trademark searches and registration.”

In the end, with a major corporate identity effort, I do think it is the responsibility of the in-house identity project manager, and the graphic design team given the assignment, to create an end result that is powerful, unique and memorable as a symbol. Part of determining that unique quality is to do all possible to make sure the logo does not resemble or infringe on the identity of other established firms or organization. A reputable business should avoid conveying any message - implied or intentional - of that business “borrowing” the brand reputation or strength of another.

I have seen cases of designers posting concepts online with the question “Has anyone seen this design, or something similar.” With the feedback on the Quark identity, hiring a few Internet savvy designers to do a search may be an economical and efficient manner in which to do a search.

“During the end of a college semester, one of my design professors said that ‘Any logo idea you come up with has been done before,’” says John Wingard. “Although I still don’t totally agree with it, the idea has been liberating. If designers keep their work personal, and concentrate on their own unique vision, that will be evident in the final logo. If something feels like you might have seen it before, you probably have. Try something else.”

David E. Carter -
Tim Frame - Tim Frame Design
Gene Gable, Contributing Editor,
John Wingard - John Wingard Design
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Old 16.01.2006, 14:45   #2
горно-предгорной жизни =)
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Default Re: Inspiration, imitation or innovation - how do designers create unique identities?

gde-to i ya videl takuyu je , no ne pomnitca gde...
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