The explosion of contest sites and crowdsourcing in the graphic design industry, concern over plagiarism has grown significantly, as a result of the speed at which ideas circulate. Before we go casting stones, we need to define plagiarism. The best way to explain what plagiarism is to make the distinction between concept and execution.
Concept: a logo with a dog
Execution: a logo of a black lab with a blue collar, 2″ x 4″
There is nothing wrong with creating a logo which has a dog. For example, Georgia, Georgetown and Louisana Tech all have bulldogs for their logo. Each one is different, but the concept is the same – a ferocious looking bulldog with a collar. The execution of the concept is in the color, shape and minor details of the bulldog, making each one unique. Copying one of these executed designs is plagiarism., but creating a logo with a bulldog is not.
In a situation where you suspect your work has been copied, approach the topic with caution. Never dismiss the possibility that it was done unintentionally and without malice. Sometimes a designer may have seen a design long ago and stored it away in memory, only to have it resurface later, forgetting from where the idea came. It happens and it’s an honest mistake. When designing, you can never be too careful or take too much time in doing your research. Take a look at some other designers’ work before starting on your own. There are several sites you can explore including: Brandstack, LogoPond, LogoLounge, and Creattica. Bear in mind that it’s OK sometimes for logos to appear similar as well.
In all, a lot has been said on the topic of plagiarism, but enough can’t be said to keep the whole industry and designer community conscious of the potential pitfalls in such a subjective profession. It’s all our responsibility to keep this in check, but it’s really simple to do so. Just be well-meaning and do your homework.