[Update: Updates|additional articles posted at the end of this entry.]
It was one of my typical 'no client' Fridays. I fixed myself a second double latte and sat down in front of my MacBook Pro to check emails and visit a few social networking sites. A long-time member of the business site StartupNation, and a 2008 recipient of their Home-Based 100 honors, I wasn't surprised at all to see a weekly update email from the web resource.
The headline of a newly-posted article, "5 Rules for Great Logo Design," caught my eye and I clicked on the link. Written by John Williams, a member of the StartupNation Small Business Experts panel, the article provided some good basic information for designers and potential clients, and after adding a comment to the piece, I shared the link on the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives Facebook page. I had no idea of the future meaning of my article comment when I posted my additional rule:
Hire a professional: The best result of a logo design project will be produced by a professional designer with a real understanding of the identity design and branding process - and proven track record for creating great logos. Yes, I’m a professional identity designer and have a vested interest in that statement. However, over the past three decades about a 1/4 of my clientele has come to me with an existing logo, originally designed by [insert a neighbor, husband, wife, themselves, any relative, etc.] who had a computer, that they wish to have redesigned to project a more professional image.
A short while later I received an unrelated Twitter message from illustrative designer Leighton Hubbell, one of my longtime "imaginary" online friends. It read:
Hey, Jeff. You should take a look at Logogarden.com. It appears they have a couple of your logos available for purchase on their site.
His next message informed me that he'd already found a "dozen or so" of his own logo images being sold on the site.
In going to the LogoGarden site, I was immediately stunned to see the image from the TraveLady Media identity, which I had designed years go for a friend, exhibited in the top row of examples as the logo for a business named Pack-a-bag Travel Management (above). I began to find more and more of my designs as I went through icon archives on the site. Work by identity peers, acquaintances and friends - including Von Glitschka, Maggie Macnab, Christopher Simmons of MINE, Prejean Creative and many others, were everywhere. I even saw immediately recognizable logos such as the World Wildlife Fund, Moonstruck Chocolate, and Time Warner Cable being offered for sale to, what I would assume would be, unsuspecting customers of the site.
It didn't take me long to find a good two dozen of images from my own logo portfolio for sale. Some were simply copied exactly; others altered very slightly from my originals. I found many more cases in which logos for sale were much more than simply "inspired" by my own work. I literally felt sick to my stomach after finding the following, the most explicit examples of my stolen designs:
TraveLady Media: Just one example of my original logo design, the icon being sold on LogoGarden.com and the logo being featured on their homepage making use of my icon design, with a testimonial from a supposedly satisfied customer. The identity was designed for Pacific Northwest television and media personality Cheryl Hansen.
Robinwood Center: My original logo was designed in 1981 for the Robinwood Shopping Center in West Linn, OR; not any question that LogoGarden.com is selling a blatant ripoff of my design.
Caring Community of North Portland: Another example of my original logo design, the icon being sold on LogoGarden.com and the logo being featured on their website making use of my icon design, with a testimonial from a supposedly satisfied customer. I created the image for a North Portland community non-profit organization.
North Portland Business Association: The center of my original North Portland Business Association logo - for my own neighborhood business group! - was ripped-off and is offered for sale on LogoGarden. Silly LogoGarden.com refers to the Great Blue Heron in the logo as a 'pelican.' I do enjoy pointing out the added stupidity.
DataDork: Oh, yes they did! The LogoGarden hacks even kidnapped my DataDork guy! The image represents a self-proclaimed "computer geek" in Fontana, CA.
What's For Dinner?: Another example of LogoGarden taking my original design, altering the graphic image a bit, and then offering the ripped off image for sale on their site.
American Telecom: In this case, LogoGarden pulled the graphic out of my AmericanTelecom logo design and slightly altered it by rotating the stars - and are offering the result for sale on their site.
Ed Cunningham: My original logo design, the altered icon being sold on LogoGarden.com and the crappy logo being featured on their website using a distorted version of my icon design, with a testimonial from a supposedly satisfied customer. This is the personal logo of my partner, Ed Cunningham.
Tsunami Benefit Icon: My icon for Font Aid III: Fleurons of Hope, a designer/type designer effort to raise funds for those in countries affected by the 2005 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis, was also swiped by LogoGarden.
Valley Catholic High School: It's bad enough that a site like LogoGarden rips off my original Valley Catholic High School logo design - but then they go and do a sh*tty job of it, too!
Indies Restaurant & Bar: This seems to be a standard modus operandi for LogoGarden - plucking a significant design element from a logo created by a professional designer and offering it for sale on their website. In this case the palm tree from my Indies logo was nabbed.
Sunriver Preparatory School: The logo for a school, located outside of Bend, OR, was made up of a river element forming the letterform "S," a representation of the wolf mascot of the facility, and a graphic treatment of Bachelor Butte and the Three Sisters Mountains. LogoGarden.com simply eliminated much of the fine detail. (Yes, before you comment, my type treatment was based on Papyrus at the request of the client - I removed some of the "bumps" in the letterforms.)
Diversity Network: This education organization wanted generic, somewhat abstract human forms within their identity. LogoGarden.com altered them slightly before offering the image to their customers.
Benton County Historical Museum: The identifying feature of this museum building in Philomath, OR is the cupola. This is another case of a graphic element from one of my original logo designs being 'appropriated' by LogoGarden, slightly altered [poorly] and offered for sale.
Seacoast AIDS Walk: This LogoGarden rip-off especially ticked me off as the work of AIDS Response Seacoast and their AIDS Walk are near and dear to my heart. The organization is located in Portsmouth, NH. This isn't the first time this logo has been ripped off by someone!
Rob Buckmaster Fund: A very personal project for me; designing an identity honoring local actor Rob Buckmaster, an acquaintance from my work with the triangle productions! theatre company. Rob died of AIDS and a scholarship fund was established in his name. The fact that LogoGarden stole and butchered my original design is especially annoying.
Project Stepping Stones: A program on the St. Charles Medical Center Foundation In Bend OR, Project Stepping Stones Project provides prenatal education and family health support programs for uninsured, low-income women to promote baby and child health. When I created the logo, I purposely dropped graphic "stones" in the shape of an "S" letterform into the imagery. LogoGarden.com left them in place when copying the image for their own purposes.
• Queen Anne Royals: The Queen Anne Royals were the employee bowling team for Key Bank's Queen Anne Branch in Seattle, WA. My late friend Brad Hall was a member of the team. This is another example of LogoGarden.com taking a graphic from one of my designs, altering the image and offering it for sale. The center point and 'reflective' image element line up perfectly when overlaid. It's just one of many similar cases I found on the site involving my own work - and the designs of others.
After finding so many examples of hijacked logo design work on LogoGarden.com, I started poking around a bit more on the site. With Google searches, none of the testimonial business names on the home page resulted in the finding of real businesses. I also discovered that the Founder and President of LogoGarden.com was John Williams - the same John Williams who wrote the StartupNation article I read earlier in the morning. All a bit too "small world" for me in a period of just a few hours.
I immediately returned to the StartUpNation blogs and posted:
Very interesting that I should respond to this post on the same day that numerous designers are finding their own original designs for sale on Mr. Williams' site LogoGarden.com. I was alerted to the fact early this afternoon and have so far found about 20 examples of my own design work - from logos representing my clients - on the LogoGarden.com site. Numerous other designers are finding their work offered for sale on the site as well.
I also returned to Twitter, informing StartupNation - through a tweet - about what was happening in regards to Mr. Williams and LogoGarden.com. To their credit, I quickly received a response thanking me for bringing the matter to their attention and informing me that they would investigate immediately. In a very short period of time Mr. Williams' articles were removed from the StartupNation site and there was no longer any reference to him as an "expert" on the web presence.
The Moonstruck Chocolate Company headquarters is very near my home studio. In addition, I was very familiar with their logo as it was designed by the Portland firm Sandstrom Partners. I've know Steve Sandstrom since we both worked on the University of Oregon college newspaper, The Oregon Daily Emerald, over 30 years ago. By way of Twitter and Facebook, I made Moonstruck Chocolate and Sandstrom Partners aware of finding the chocolatier's logo for sale on LogoGarden.com. I later received a Facebook message from a representative of Moonstruck, letting me know they had contacted their lawyer about the matter. Attorneys for others are also at work on the situation.
Many designers, and small business people, have asked for suggestions of how they can help in this situation that impacts so many in the design profession. My response is; "Make some noise!"
Review the home page and visit the logo image archive (using the 'Try It Free" button) on LogoGarden.com and review what is posted. If you recognize logos, alert the designer or client whose logo image is for sale. Post comments or reviews on the LogoGarden Facebook Page or YouTube presence. Research articles by LogoGarden founder John Williams on business web sites and comment. Ask design organizations, industry publications and business website/magazines to sound off about the LogoGarden issue. Make other designers aware of what is going on through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, blogging or whatever means possible. Read and share this piece, and the articles listed below. The power of a combined graphic design community can make a difference.
Thank you for the support received by all of the designers impacted in this situation.
Update - 08.17.11: I filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with LogoGarden.com's web Rackspace Hosting, using their online copyright infringement form. That evening, LogoGarden.com began to remove my images from their website.
Update - 08.18.11: I received the following email from Rackspace:
"I'm writing on behalf of Rackspace in regards to a Copyright Infringement notice for LogoGarden.com. Our client has notified us that the material in question has been removed and that they are in compliance. Please review the site in question to make a determination of compliance. If there are any outstanding issues with this matter please let me know so that I can take the necessary action to resolve this matter.
Please contact us within the next 14 days. If we do not hear from you by August 31, 2011 we will consider this matter resolved. Thank you."
Update - 08.19.11:
• Ed Cunningham: I discovered a second image on the LogoGarden.com website today that makes use of an adaptation of my partner's personal logo. It then disappeared from the site without my reporting it to Rackspace.
Update - 08.20.11: Posted on the LogoGarden Facebook Page today:
"DESIGNERS, PLEASE READ: LogoGarden.com has recently been found to have some symbols in its 10,000-symbol library that are not original. We work very hard to try to ensure originality. If you discover any offending symbols please email email@example.com and attach 1) your original logo (jpg) with date of creation, 2) a screenshot of the symbol in our database and 3) any sample logos from the LogoGarden home page. We will immediately remove any offending symbols.
I didn't realize that any of my logo images, stolen and offered for sale by LogoGarden, were 'offending." However, I do find the fact they ripped-off so many design professionals and clients very offensive.
Update - 08.22.11:
The TraveLady logo icon has finally been removed from the homepage of the UK version of LogoGarden.com. However, the icon itself is still being sold as a logo design elements on the sites.
Update - 08.23.11: The Graphic Artists Guild would like those who have found their logo designs on the LogoGarden.com site to send screenshots of infringed work to firstname.lastname@example.org - as they are investigating and tracking this issue.
Update - 08.25.11:
After again reporting to Rackspace Hosting that my TraveLady Media logo icon was still being sold on all LogoGarden.com sites, it was FINALLY removed. It only took nearly two weeks to get the particular image off the sites.
• What is the liability of using stolen property for your business?; You get the idea, by Roland Murillo of Murillo Design [08.17.11]
• AIGA ACTION ALERT: Check LogoGarden for identity work stolen from you; from Richard Grefé, AIGA Executive Director, AIGA [08.19.11]
• AIGA Launches Action Alert for Design Theft by ‘Logo Garden’ Site; by Steve Delahoyde of UnBeige [08.22.11]
• Letter from a Thief: LogoGarden’s Response to Selling Your Logos; by Tad Dobbs, Creative Squall [08.29.11]
© 2011 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives