Appropriated Logo Wins Award: If you have any familiarity with the world of advertising, you have probably heard of San Francisco advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, known in the industry as GSP. If you are familiar with the world of logo design, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding this company’s new logo design.
GSP is one of the big names in advertising, having designed campaigns for notable names such as Chevrolet, Yahoo! and Got Milk? Despite its prominence, the agency is relatively new, opening less than three decades ago. They have received numerous industry awards for their advertising campaigns, and now they have received a design award for what appears to be a misappropriated logo.
Like many companies, GSP rebrands and changed logo design occasionally to stay relevant in their market. Rather than hiring a professional logo design agency for their latest change, the company partner Rich Silverstein did it himself. This is not an approach that we generally advocate, and in this case it ended badly.
The problem, as many design blogs pointed out, is that the new design is strikingly similar—an almost carbon copy, in fact—of the design used by a now closed company called S & Co. To be clear, there was probably no actual copyright infringement here; the original owner of the logo design has been dead long enough that the design is most likely in the common domain.
However, many people were incensed simply because of the deception involved. The company clearly tried to pass off the design as an original, not mentioning the source until it was pointed out repeatedly in the media. In fact, GSP entered their logo design into a design contest based in Cannes, along with a brief that included no indication of the fact that the image heavily borrowed from another. They ended up winning an award.
As many people like to point out, there is nothing new under the sun. Most designs borrow heavily from others, if not from actual copyrighted works as from certain schools and motifs. There are only so many ways to draw an idea. However, it is important that the original and rightful owners be given the credit they are due, and that the design is open for legal use. An executive in the advertising industry is well aware of the fine line between inspiration and plagiarism.
However, the creator of the logo design defends his decision to use a recycled logo with no reference to the original. In a statement sent to many both within and without the company, Rich Silverstein claims, “Our new logo is old… it’s not a coincidence that the logo looks like a 100 year old ligature. It was 100% intentional.”
Intentional or not, the way this logo design was introduced (and entered into a design contest with no note of the inspiration behind the design) feels a little dishonest. Because designers pride themselves on honest and integrity in work, it ruffled a lot of feathers.