The Seventh Commandment

The tribute, robbery and theft of authorship, have blurred boundaries in the design practice.

Erik Spiekermann, author AuthorErik Spiekermann Followers: 375

We’ve had two break-ins at our office recently. Surprisingly, nothing was ever stolen. At least nothing that we could see. We have no idea whether any data was secretly lifted from the server or ideas copied from the print-outs on the walls. If it was the case, how would we measure the damage and report it to the insurance?

It can be flattering to find work that has been influenced by your own work. There is, however, a thin line in our business between copying, adapting, imitating, or just being inspired. And let’s face it: hardly any project requires invention, because most clients feel more comfortable with something tested.

Occasionally, thieves deliver themselves inadvertently. I have seen lots of portfolios, where someone claimed authorship without justification. Large projects always need more than one designer, plus a host of other trades, be they programmers, typesetters, project managers or interns. And all of these can claim a part in the project. But that doesn’t mean they alone were “the designer”.

Whenever I show a project I speak of “us”. And it makes me proud to hear people mention the work we did together. As long as they speak the truth. It should be easy: show the project, explain what your role was and give credit to the agency or studio who you worked for at the time, whether employed or as a freelancer. Don’t forget: potential clients or employers know that it is easy to copy and paste a complete portfolio.

What surprises me most is the stupidity: people show me projects that I worked on and they didn’t, or they use versions of fonts that were never publicly available. And if they don’t send their portfolios directly to me, I see it when judging competitions or visiting friends’ studios. This is a small business. And we do talk about applicants for jobs.

Claiming other people’s work is not bad style, it is theft. And being deliberately unclear about the exact authorship is not modest, but dishonest. Intellectual property is what we create. And taking that from a designer is not flattery by imitation, but a crime.

What do you think? Share your comments right now!


Help to spread this article by translating it

Translate to italian

This article was previously published in Form magazine.

QR code for access to article The Seventh Commandment

This article does not express the opinion of the editors and managers of FOROALFA, who assume no responsibility for its authorship and nature. To republish, except as specifically indicated, please request permission to author. Given the gratuity of this site and the hyper textual condition of the Web, we will be grateful if you avoid reproducing this article on other websites. Published on 11/05/2013

Download PDF

Main illustration of the article Logos to Go
Logos to Go Corporate identity design is changing. There are designers for whom quantity matters more than quality.


Your comment

Login with your account to comment on this article. If you do not have it, create your free account now.

Might interest you

Upcoming online seminars (in Spanish)

Refreshing courses to specialize with the best

Auditoría de Marca

Auditoría de Marca

Taller de práctica profesional: análisis, diagnóstico y programa de marca sobre casos reales

30 hours (approx.)
1 julio

Relecturas del Diseño

Relecturas del Diseño

Una inmersión en el discurso sobre el diseño para despejar sus nociones más controvertidas: creatividad, innovación, arte, tecnología...

20 hours (approx.)
1 julio

Proceso de Diseño de Identidad

Proceso de Diseño de Identidad

Tratar con el cliente, hacer presupuestos y planificar las etapas de la creación de una marca

15 hours (approx.)
1 julio