Lessons in Creativity


Yesterday one of my favorite clients sent me a text message with a screenshot of their logo. After taking a closer look, I realized that it wasn’t really their logo but a rip off of the one that I had designed for them last year. My heart started beating fast and after calling her I found out that another company was using it as their own. Seriously. TOTAL rip off (but poorly done). Obviously legal actions could have been taken but instead I chose to blast the company by sending a tweet and posting a comparison shot on Instagram for all my followers. I instantly received feedback and the company at fault was getting cc’d on everything. I felt instantly validated and waited for them to respond.

After a few hours, they did respond. Privately. They told me that they had taken it down everywhere and that they had hired a designer that had obviously ripped everyone off. Ultimately they were hurt by the entire experience. I realized in that moment that I had acted too impulsively and felt pretty crappy. As the evening progressed, I realized a few things…

When you are constantly making content, you will be imitated.

This kind of copycat situation never happens when you aren’t making anything to begin with. I am constantly making new things. Whether they are designs, side projects or businesses…I’m putting myself out there and online. I remember in art school seeing painters getting influenced by other painters in a very literal way. Sites like Dribbble make it easy to see what’s trending and can lead to lots of rip offs. We’re told, as designers, to steal. It’s easy to do and if you’re making a lot of work…it will probably happen more often than you know.

Public shaming is crappy.

There’s a fine line between being a bully and standing up for yourself and others. After last night, I felt like a bully. I used my social media network to publicly shame another small business and I won’t do it again. Ever. I should have messaged them directly and asked for more information. Why didn’t I? Because I was afraid I would look weak or that I would fail my client. I didn’t want them to have the upper hand and so I took the first punch. (PS: It doesn’t make you feel better).

The Internet is actually a small world after all.

On the other hand, this experience has also taught me that the Internet is super small. We are all connected and it’s almost impossible to rip someone off without them knowing about it sooner or later. It also is a small enough world that with one Google image search, you can probably find out your competition and what’s popular in your industry. If you hire a designer or someone making original content for your business – you should also be doing a bit of work/research. Demand that your designer do the same.

Designers, get your sh*t together!

Quit copying each other. Quit acting like you’re the bomb dot com. Do solid work and stop making it hard for the rest of us. I would say that 70% of my clients came to me after a really, really bad situation with their last designer. They’re hurt, they don’t fully trust me and they’re hesitant to hire someone new. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Yeah our last designer just fell off the face of the earth.” Step up and do good work. We can’t always guarantee our designs are 100% original but you sure can try to find out.

So that was my lesson(s) learned. I apologized to the company last night and hope that I didn’t do any damage. I know what it’s like to run a small businesses and reputation is everything. And yes, I am trying to find out who their designer was. A little private conversation needs to happen. Have you ever had something like this happen to you? How did you handle it? 

April 17, 2013