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In design

By petrostudio

what is graphic des… what the WHAT?

On 05, Sep 2012 | One Comment | In design, rants | By petrostudio

I started this post with a simple question: what is graphic design? I get asked that question a lot, and I thought I would explore the subject.

But when I started looking for imagery and articles about it, I came across something that really made me angry – people ripping off material on just that subject.

AIGA has an article on the subject, which tries to objectively define design categories. Design is difficult to define, however, and it just comes across as a sort of dry recitation of something from a “learn-it-yourself” book. I backed out a page and looked at other search results, landing on a page of a blog called Tu Sei Bella. On December 11, 2011 this blog reproduced an exact copy of the AIGA article, with no citation as to the source.

This, ladies and germs, is called plagiarism.

The act of plagiarism is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

 to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source

Incidentally, the AIGA site is actually not original source of the article – itself a reprint of another source. However, AIGA cites that source at the bottom of the article:

Graphic Design: A Career Guide and Education Directory
Edited by Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl
Copyright 1993
The American Institute of Graphic Arts

The website is citing its own book as a source, never mind trying to pass of someone else’s work as its own.

The Tu Sei Bella site’s use of the AIGA article is, unfortunately, common. In this day of blogs and personal websites, unless someone in the know is actually paying attention, one can pass of just about anything as their own work.

I remember the first typography class I taught in the Visual Communication department at ITT here in Little Rock. I had fourteen students, and the first day an assignment was given to write a short paper for the next week on a famous typographer. Of the students that actually turned in a paper the following week, more than half of the writings were lifted from other sources – verbatim.

How did I know? Well, considering many of the students couldn’t put a sentence together correctly with their mouths, I thought the writing was a bit, shall we say, professional. A quick Google search of some of the key phrases brought me right to the sources (which, incidentally, were not cited), which I then printed and stapled to the papers. I was shocked. I thought it had to be an anomaly. But every quarter, without fail, the same thing would happen.

So it should be no surprise to find another link to plagiarized work right on the Tu Sei Bella page. At the bottom of the post, there’s an image. With a little digging, I learn that this is something from a designer named Roberto Blake.

This looks like a common design school project, and I would not be shocked to learn that this was not a new or original piece – I have nothing to reference or back it up. But that’s not the point here, The point is that I find, while doing an image search based on the same idea, a different image from a different designer.

Apparently, a young “designer” name Mellyssa Angel Diggs created a portfolio piece of her own on this same subject. And, aside from being a black-on-white piece rather than the knocked-out version Roberto Blake created (oh, and some of the words are moved around) it is a copy of the design and intent entirely.

Now, this idea of angled typography, often running off of the page, is nothing new. Inspiration comes from many different places. But a blatant rip-off of the thing is appalling, and really goads my gizzard, if you will (I have no idea what that means, I just stole it from somewhere).

I remember working in New York and my boss collecting interesting folded and designed pieces. A project would come along, and he would pull one out and say, “Let’s do this”, to which we replied, “What, that fold/technique/typeface?” The idea that we could just jam a technique or interesting fold into a project (function following form) seemed just fine. For us, the idea came first, and then inspired the design (form follows function). And even though nothing is really “new” anymore, it felt less like stealing someone else’s idea.

Which, for sites like Tu Sei Bella, seems to be a recurring theme. I found enough that was just ripped off that I stopped looking. I wanted to throw up. Or punch Tu Sei Whatevera in the fachia. There’s simply no excuse for that. Cite your sources, people – which on the web is easy, just link back to the original source

Like this. See? It’s not rocket science.


  1. Hmm, the question is why not contact these people and let them know? Maybe they will see the error in their ways. Sometimes, you kind of have to let them know. 🙂

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