Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Not Happy in New Haven

Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do and we always invite our readers to submit their questions: [email protected]

Dear Bonnie,

I’ve been working on a freelance project for a client; a logo for some data visualization software that his team developed. It’s dragged on and on and on from their end (topic of another question!), but they finally got to a point where they liked the mark. I thought things were wrapping up.

But no.

My client emailed me a little “FYI” yesterday—a link to a website that one of their team members had found. I clicked, and wept. It was to a company with a disturbingly similar mark to the one I designed, down to the colors. And, um, yeah, their name is the same. Their site says © 2014, and they’re based in the same city as the team I'm doing work for. 

I told my client that similar-looking logos are common, but personally I found this particular circumstance shocking and asked if my PDFs had been shared outside of their team. He said no, but I can’t help but be a little suspicious. He told me today that his developer feels that we can't use the logo because it's too similar, so it's “back to the drawing board.” I started working on this project in June.

I know coincidences happen. Am I being paranoid in thinking this other company somehow copped my work? Or is this normal?

Not Happy in New Haven

Dear N.H.,

The other company is also new and has the same name and is based in the same city? Your client may have bigger issues than just a similar logo. The first thing to do is make sure they want to keep using the same name. The similar logo could be a blessing in disguise if it leads to your client finding a name unique to them.

If the two businesses have no overlap and your client and his team want to proceed with the same name, it makes sense to redesign the logo. I do have to ask: did you Google image search the software’s name at any point to see what else was out there with that name? Just for kicks when you started thinking about the logo? It’s actually a great way to quickly see different ways the letterforms work together and also, usually, presents a brief overview of “what not to do.” In this case, it may have saved you the heartache of discovering the similar mark after putting so much work into the project.

Personally, I do not think anyone stole your work. From my many years of watching Law & Order, I’m going to conclude that there was no motive for your client to have shared the work. And a Watergate style break-in seems unlikely. I bet, given the same name to work with, that you and the other company’s designers both followed the same thought process to arrive at your solutions.

Since this is not your “fault,” I do think you should be paid more for the extra work you must now do.

This is a simplistic analogy, but here goes anyway: let’s say your client had recently had a sign hung outside their building and after it was up, they realized the colors matched the sign right next to it. They would, of course, understand that they needed to pay the sign maker to re-color and re-install the sign. Your project is even more involved than that, so I expect they will understand that additional compensation is fair.

Comments [1]

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