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Same old, same old: whose logo is it anyway?

What’s the one persistent, subconscious niggle at the back of any graphic designer’s mind? — “Any great I have, someone else had it first”.

For some, that worry becomes a real problem.

The new Formula One logo has come under fire for allegedly copying a trademark used for a brand of compression tights, called Futuro. Here are the two logos, side-by-side:

 

F1 & Futuro logos

 

There are obviously similarities between the two. The curves in both logos represent the shape of the F – with the double lines suggesting tire tracks in the F1 logo and, presumably, legs bent in a sitting position in the Futuro logo. But is it a rip-off?

There have been many disputes about logo design in the past, and there will undoubtedly be more in the future.

 

 

With these disputes, a difficult question always surfaces – how can one graphic designer claim complete ownership of an idea? That is, to assert definitively that no other designer could possibly have had that same idea independently.

There are more extreme cases, for which ownership is a little easier to argue for. These unabashed brand knock-offs, for instance…

 

 

These ridiculous examples aside, what can designers do to avoid accidentally mimicking another designer’s work?

A little research does’t hurt. ‘Logo Modernism’ by Jens Muller is, for example, a good starting point – it’s an encyclopaedic source of nearly 6,000 trademarks alongside a history of logo design.

Of course, it’s impossible to mentally catalogue every trademark ever registered – the designer behind the F1 logo probably never thought to look up logos for flight socks. For that reason, market-specific research is arguably even more important. Look into your client’s competitors to ensure your logo design will stand out from the crowd and be unique within their market.

And ultimately the important thing to remember – so that the subconscious niggle doesn’t become a roadblock cutting off creative thinking altogether – is that it’s not necessarily about coming up with a completely original, shiny-new idea. It’s about what you can do to set your idea apart.

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