Derivative Design Concepts – Drop it like a Bad Habit

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Every profession comes with its own code of ethics, rules and regulations that must be adhered to at all times. Graphic design is no different. In fact this is one of those rare fields where ethics and moral values are just as important as artistic skill and creativity. There is no room for logo theft or plagiarism whatsoever; such practices are fiercely looked down upon.

The Curious Case of Derivative Design Concepts

Lack of skill and imagination in any field will lead to shortcut approaches. The same is true for the graphic design arena and derivative logos are one example of a shortcut. These designs are the end results of designers using clip art, images and other people’s work as their own. Designers who do this usually deny doing so and say they were only using these images for “inspiration.” However, fact of the matter is that derivative logo designs are usually caught, leading to trademark infringement and a bad reputation for the logo designer.

A good logo designer should have enough depth in his creativity and thought process to never resort to such tactics.

Why Designers Should Avoid Derivative Design Concepts

Design Concepts

The very fact that this approach carries a high risk of trademark infringement should be enough to keep all logo designers at bay. One significant indication of derivative concepts is that when people see your work they are instantly reminded of some other work. Recognition is a vital factor behind a designer’s thought process. The last thing s/he wants is to be remembered for creating something that has great visual aesthetics but was also someone else’s work.

Original vs Derivative

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Good for Instant Recognition, But Bad for Long Term

Apple logo #derivative

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Remember the logo from Jonathan Mak which he revealed just after the death of Steve Jobs as a tribute to the Apple Co-founder? He became a celebrity overnight. However, a few weeks later it was revealed that another designer, Chris Thornley, had come up with a same concept months earlier. He even posted the image on his blog. This created a huge controversy and lot of critsism from thousands of people around the world; many of whom blamed Mak for ‘ripping off’ an original design.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Good Designers Don’t Steal – So, what should Designers do?

  • Push your creativity to the limit and come up with your own, original stuff.
  • Feel free to take inspiration from other work, but ask yourself what you can do to keep it completely unique.
  • Do extensive research about the logo you are about to design, including studying the client’s industry, their competitors and other important aspects.
  • Take your time. It can take days for something cool to spark. Don’t rush into projects and allow yourself sufficient time to gather information by researching thoroughly.

Being unique and creative are two of the best compliments that every logo designer wants to hear and strives hard to earn. When it comes to graphic design, it is always best to take the longer approach because in this field slow and steady win the race.

Market research nerd with a penchant for graphic design and branding. A digital marketer by profession; a creature of the web by compulsion.

6 thoughts on “Derivative Design Concepts – Drop it like a Bad Habit

  1. Very true. One cannot deny the ethics and rules of a profession and be successful in it. Same stands true for logo designing too.

    1. @Chris Thanks for sharing your video with us. It was an interesting watch, even though a little scary for me, maybe because of the music 🙂
      Getting inspired is fine, as long we designers are not deliberately copying another person’s concept. Many times the idea of something is so common that a lot of people can come up with similar concept. Which is why we always stress on research. If you research enough and understand the industry you are creating the design for, you really can’t go wrong. Just my two cents!


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