Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

The Curious Case of the Copycat Client

The Curious Case of the Copycat Client

We may know a lot about the ins and outs of running a successful design studio, but we regularly run into dilemmas of our own. Mikelle had a recent client scenario which devolved from looking to an existing site for “inspiration” into the client wanting a very close copy of the original.

When clients want to copy something that’s already out there, how are you supposed to handle it? In this episode, we talk it out, and come up with some great suggestions on how to handle this situation if it ever comes up.

We also answer a few listener questions about how you should represent hobby work on your resume, and what one listener might be doing wrong in his client communications.

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(3) responses


September 10, 2013

Client Copycat GAHHHH!

I did a logo a long time ago for a company called LION. I am a small freelance designer, so it was strange to me when my analytics showed this particular logo design actually went around the globe for about a week 3 years after I designed it.

The next week, I had a half dozen emails of people asking essentially to “buy” their logo. Not O.K. Some of them went with tweaked discarded concepts though so that was pretty easy money for a couple of extras that I always keep in the original client folder.

Some of the other ones were more sneaky, or really upset and I even had to send one an official copyright letter to stop using it!

I guess my question is, are there any legal/moral constraints to using discarded concepts to a new client?


    Wes McDowell

    September 10, 2013

    That’s an interesting question! You mean if a client didn’t use a particular concept, but you think it would somehow be perfect for another client in the future with a few minor changes? I’ve never had this happen, but if it’s not being used, and it’s a good fit for somebody else I don’t really see any practical reason why not. Your first client isn’t paying for all of the concepts, just the final logo.



      March 21, 2014

      I disagree with this comment “Your first client isn’t paying for all of the concepts, just the final logo.”

      We pay for the work regardless if it sees the light of day. If you want to contractually limit that ownership then great.

      Now, for the unenlightened boar who wants to copy logo designs… ultimately, the first client owns the copyright and servicemark. The client would take legal action against both you and this new client for “willfully infringing” on their brand, mark, or copyright. You can gently or emphatically guide the new client that you are required by law to not infringe.

      In the end, when you design something divergent enough from the desired logo, you get new work for your portfolio and you protect both yourself and your first client. That first client will appreciate you protecting them and often want to work with someone again with high integrity.


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