So, if you spend any time in the design/illustration profession, you’re likely to get ripped off. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. However, it’s pretty rare that it happens almost immediately and completely unashamedly, yet that’s what just happened to us here at Brand Labs.
Back on November 24, we posted about the launch of our newly-designed site for Airsoft Atlanta. We took a great deal of pride in that design, not only because it was so flipping badass, but because the client LOVED it. Well, by a freaky coincidence, the designer who created that site happened to be searching “Volusion web design” when he came across the site for The Crimson Hill. Now we’re no plagiarism scientists, so let’s look at this together and see if we all come to the same conclusion (our design is on the left):
Let’s see… nonsensical mechanical header and footer connected by some sort of fictional belt drive? Check. Bullet-hole-ridden cement background? Check. (Though it must be noted that ours is seamless, whereas theirs is not.) Nearly identical hero image? Check. Nearly identical left nav exhaust fan? Check. Central, featured product area presented as on-screen images (complete with horizontal “monitor” lines)? Check. Extremely similar display fonts? Check. Hosted on Volusion? Check.
Now, we’ll give Daniel Wood the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was following direct orders from the client. After all, we’ve all had clients who point to a site and say, “I want that.” On the other hand, an ethical designer will do everything in their power to steer the client in a more original direction; trying to glean the elements that they truly respond to and then including those elements in the final design in a new way. It’s a constant battle, but it’s one that’s worth fighting. But, now that this has happened, we need to alert the client that they’ve been ripped off and that there’s very little we can do about it. We’re not exactly sure why anyone would want to be the cause of that sort of thing. Isn’t it always better just to come up with your own stuff? So much less drama…
UPDATE: I see in the comments that there are some non-believers and I understand their point, there’s plenty of this sort of thing to be had out there on the interwebs, but here’s the hook: The Crimson Hill basically confessed yesterday in a series of emails between them and one of our employees. It turns out that Crimson Hill approached us for a quote (which I didn’t know at the time of the post) and our sales guy showed him the Airsoft site as an example. He didn’t like our price so he went to a cheaper designer and (for all intents and purposes) told him to reproduce the Airsoft site. Regardless of how pervasive this style of design may be, the fact is that ours was built entirely from the ground up and theirs was built to ape ours.
UPDATED UPDATE: So, we’ve now been in touch with the owner of The Crimson Hill, and the fact is that he seems like a pretty nice guy. True, he came to us for a bid. True, he showed Airsoft Atlanta to the designer he eventually chose. True, it shares some obvious similarities with his final site design… however, he’s made it clear to us that his intentions were not evil and he’s currently taking steps to alter the more obviously similar elements. This may now be the closest thing to justice that a designer can hope for in such a case and we’d certainly rather make friends than enemies, so thank you Josh. We hope to cross paths again under more pleasant circumstances.