With every design project, I send a questionnaire to my client to gather the information I need for their project. This includes their deadline, the dimensions, the text they want on the piece, and much more. Some of the most important questions I ask are regarding the style of the piece – grungy vs clean, fun vs serious, style likes and dislikes, etc.

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In the beginning stages of a project, there’s one message that I have received from many of potential clients:

“Can you make it look like this?”

It’s one thing to like the look of a design, it’s another to rip it off. With social media today, it’s easy for people to warn their audience about copycats. But, the fear of getting caught shouldn’t be the only deterrent from ripping off someone else’s work – be a decent person and respect the creator’s work

I was recently asked how much someone could tweak another person’s logo and not be breaking copyright. First, that is the wrong question to ask.

Secondly, there are various answers between 20-50%. But, how do you calculate a 20% change on someone’s design? 

Think of it like this: when you go to the grocery store, you’ll see name brand products next to off-brand products. You can buy Oreo’s or you can buy Stuffed Sandwich Cookies. The packages look pretty similar, as do the cookies. It’s VERY obvious that the off-brand is trying to match the brand name. 

No one wants their business to be the off-brand.

You do NOT want people to look at your logo or your promotional items and have people say that it looks a lot like so-and-so’s pieces. Especially in the realm of branding, you want to be distinguishable. There’s a reason that Dell didn’t make their logo an apple that looks “a little different” from Apple’s logo. 

So, now what do I do?

If you feel “stuck” in the creative process, and not sure how to get the design you want without copying, here are three steps to help get you un-stuck. 

  • Ask yourself, what is it about this particular design that you like? Is it the colors, or the fonts? Do you love how it “pops”? (Yes, I did just say that.)
  • Create an inspiration board on Pinterest. Find several examples of designs that you like, besides the one that you are tempted to copy. Also, be sure to grab color and font inspiration! 
  • Work with a designer who can take your brand, your inspiration board, and their skills to give you a brand of your OWN. Get a brand that is so YOU that you can’t help but show it off every day. 

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