Categories / Inspiration

Famous Design Copycat Scandals

Peter M March 31, 2021 · 3 min read

If you’ve spent any time on the web, you’ve probably seen a website, a logo, or even a product that looks a littttle too close to another one. Those designs that give you an eerie sense of déjà vu. If that’s the case, you might be looking at a design copycat. There’s no shortage of them. But it’s not always easy to tell who came first. We’ll leave that for the copyright lawyers to decide. But in the meantime, here’s a few examples of design imitation that had people calling foul.

The Tokyo Olympics Logo vs The Théâtre de Liège

We hope Tokyo’s Olympic athlete put a little effort into their preparations for the 2020 Olympics than their bid team did with their logo. Since its unveiling, a number of people have noted the mark’s similarity to the emblem for Belgium’s Théâtre de Liège.

Yammer vs Facebook

If you’ve seen The Social Network movie, you’ll know that Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to accusations of having ideas that sound similar to other people. We’ll err on the side of caution and let you make your own mind up. But in this instance, Zuck was on the other side of the fence. When it came to the launch of social networking site, Yammer a few years back, the site’s colors and layout were incredibly similar to that of Facebook. Many people seemed to think Yammer got a little too close for comfort in their ‘inspiration’. Yammer has since rebranded to become more of a team communication tool, but the name remains the same.
Image via Mashable

Airbnb vs Everybody

When it came out a year ago, the consensus was that Airbnb’s new logo looked a little too much like, well, genitalia. But it appears that wasn’t the only thing it resembled. Critics have pointed out that the mark looks not too dissimilar from the logo of brands like Habitat, among others.

What Do You Think?

Of course, there’s a fine line between imitation and inspiration. When it comes to design, similar looks and styles are bound to pop up now and again. It’s not always easy to say which are cases of ‘copycat’, and which are just coincidence. We’ll leave it up to you to have your say. What do you think? Which designs have you seen that come a little too close to others? Let us know in the comments.

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Peter M
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  • Clearly imitation in all cases. 6 years ago
  • huh?! 6 years ago
  • Seriously? Only three? You ought to spend more time writing your blogs before you post them. 6 years ago
  • Agreed except the Airbnb one, to me they don't remind me each other somehow, even though the resemblance. 6 years ago
  • As @Alex Mitchell said, only 3? Also, the Airbnb was a direct copy of the Automation Anywhere logo, which you'd known if you bothered to google "airbnb logo copy". You're better than this, do your research. 6 years ago
  • Is this article serious? Spend 30 more minutes and write a decent sized article. 6 years ago
  • Yeah, seriously I agree. 6 years ago
  • Agree with Nalan. Not the Airbnb one. 6 years ago
  • One step closer to unsubscribing to this waste of time 6 years ago
  • Airbnb symbol are found in a book from 70' or 80' and not from that habitat logo i think. source: 6 years ago
  • These logos are all so minimalistic, any perceived resemblance could be purely coincidental. There are millions of logos out there; how would that even be fair if someone could claim they've copyrighted a line with two triangular forms, and will sue you if you happen to have come up with/even just partially make use of a similar design?! If the examples provided above were more complex, more individualized, and fitted the message/ethos of A far better than B, so that it's unlikely B would come up with a similar idea for their own company anyway, not to mention, if A were so popular, it's unlikely that B would never have heard of it, then yes, one could attempt to prove plagiarism beyond the shadow of a doubt. IMO, only Yammer here seems somewhat suspect, but a quick search reveals that the resemblance was intentional, since they market themselves as "Facebook for business". Is that fair to Facebook? I bet copyright lawyers would love to go to court to answer that. Yet, surely, Microsoft would not have purchased Yammer for >1billion, if it had pending lawsuits... right? Anyway, to avoid potential accusations, or just to alleviate one's own paranoia, it would be advisable to strive for a certain level of complexity and individualization in all projects (be they visual arts, music, writing). Complexity isn't always possible though; maybe the projects above were indeed all best served by minimalistic abstract designs, and there are only so many geometrical forms to choose from. There should be a bar of common sense somewhere, or no one will create anything anymore, out of fear that someone, at some point, somewhere in the world, might have come up with something as remotely similar as the habitat vs airbnb logos, and sue your pants off. Btw, IMO, the criticism that the airbnb logo resembles genitalia is ludicrous. I guess people see what's already on their minds... lol. 6 years ago
  • Blog needs more content 6 years ago
  • love your comment Silvia! 6 years ago
  • yeh i think you are right @Silvia Teona 6 years ago
  • Have to agree that the post is rather thin. I like your comments, @Silvia Teona. To add to what you've said: Minimalist design is popular these days, particularly when it comes to tech logos. Also, there's the school of thought that says simpler is better when it comes to making memorable logos. With the limit of minimalism and it's high use, clashes and similarities are inevitable. With there being so many logos out there - including not only active commercial brands, but those of defunct entities, individual branding and the myriad of off-the-shelf and example logos - it's pretty tough to ensure that what you come up with is entirely unique or to even check that it is. Sure, you can plug your work into Google Images, but this isn't a perfect solution. For instance, it doesn't help when your logo looks like one in a book from the '70s or when another company changes their logo at the same time as you (both happened to Airbnb). "There should be a bar of common sense somewhere, or no one will create anything anymore, out of fear that someone, at some point, somewhere in the world, might have come up with something as remotely similar as the habitat vs airbnb logos, and sue your pants off." Such a bar is sadly lacking. A similar problem exists with patents, where ones that are very obviously far too broad in description have been and continue to be awarded, making it easy to inadvertently infringe and then get embroiled in a time- and money-consuming fight. 6 years ago
  • I would like to play Devil's advocate here, on two points: 1. When is it a copy, and when is it just that one could have been the "inspiration" for the other. Haven't we all looked at other logos or business cards or designs of whatever type to "inspire" us? I also think it's partly the market -- if you're making a logo for a local company or non-profit, and you find something online from a completely different part of the country, where it's unlikely the two will ever be compared, and maybe never find out about each other, is it okay to borrow some elements of the logo then? How many elements do you have to change before it becomes not a copy anymore? 2. What is the word count limit for a blog post? Upper limit of what -- 10,000 words is probably too long . . .? Lower limit is what? 300 words? So a "list" article with 3 items is too short? (according to most of the commenters here, apparently so). The longer it is, the longer it takes to read, so why is short bad if you get something out of it? Maybe we can discuss these points, rather than throwing darts at the author or other commenters :-) 6 years ago
  • "I invent nothing. I rediscover." - Auguste Rodin 6 years ago
  • @Melissa Worcester, regarding your second point: I think that many of us expected more than three one-paragraph items when we looked at the post title. There's very little information or commentary provided about the examples; instead, we have to click links and Google to find out more. Sure, shorter is better, but too short and you're not adding much/any value. Better that people say something than be silent and stop visiting. 6 years ago
  • yep, I expect more than 3 6 years ago
  • I'm sorry, but I don't really see that much of resemblance between the habitat and airbnb logos at all. And tbh, the other logo example doesn't seem like a copy as much as it does a coincidence. This probably happens a lot, because very few people in the world can come up with designs with elements that no one else has thought of ever. As others have pointed out, esp. in minimalist designs. And I agree with the other comments, this article is absurdly short and lacking in content. I expected a substantial, informative piece when I clicked on the link, but this isn't even a decent list article. 6 years ago
  • @Alex Mitchell @Melissa Mitchell @Ryan Hidajat Thanks for voicing your opinion! We like to provide a mix of longer and shorter form articles. Now that we know that the topic of imitation vs. inspiration piques your interest, we'll make sure to expand on it in the near future. Any other specific examples you can think of? Feel free to email me if you'd like to write about it anytime soon → 6 years ago
  • **eerie sense of deja vu... I realize it's a blog post and thereby free to yield as little or as much as it wants, but don't sacrifice spelling and grammar in addition to content. Please, internet writers... proofread. I can't take you seriously when you demonstrate an undeveloped sense of punctuation, tenses, or phrasing. 6 years ago
  • Hi @Kate Hazen Thanks for pitching in. Eerie vs. Eery is actually an ongoing controversy. Reputable dictionaries like Collins (HarperCollins) provide eery as a valid alternative to eerie Merriam-Webster also presents eery as a grammatically correct variant For the sake of using what is the most popular version of this term, we have edited the word. We value your feedback and share your respect for grammar and spelling. 6 years ago
  • Thank you, @Laura Busche for your entirely valid and informative response. I realize I'm being one of "those" commenters who nitpicks an article based on form and content (though most of the analysis along that vein has been done by previous readers) as opposed to content alone. I appreciate the amendment (although you're right in that I was merely correcting familiarity and not spelling), but there are actual grammatical errors/awkwardness in the post that disrupt legibility. Nitpicking may be obnoxious but it requires an attention to content and form that can lend more credibility to any written work offered to the public. Writing is just another form of design. (And, as such, will be the subject of unsolicited critique and analysis forever. :P ) 6 years ago
  • Better content here in the comments than in the blog post itself! 6 years ago
  • I've been baffled by all the controversy surrounding the Tokyo Olympics. Sure, the logo is not great, but it is in no way a lift from TL's logo, starting by the very fact that there's no "L" in the brand. The bottom rounded corner is there just to balance the logo and reinforce the counterform proposed by the upper left corner that insinuates the "T" shape. It's just a slight coincidence of shapes which is to be expected when dealing with basic geometrical shapes. 6 years ago
  • I don't think the Airbnb is a copy of Habitat but think that people will start to copy the Airbnb style—watch this space. 6 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Thanks for the nice article. 6 years ago
  • To Colorbyt: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"....To Silyia Teona: Very well expressed. You should be the moderator/originator of this blog....To Laura Jones Martinez: You hit the nail on the head!....But, but, just maybe, this is what Peter had in mind, that is to start a conversation, et al....... 6 years ago
  • Anonymous
    airbnb logo looks like genitalia, seriously...? LoL 6 years ago
  • To Pen Pal: From whence you come, there you must go...... 6 years ago
  • After reading this blog I just saw this walking around town! interesting eeemm... inspiration... right? what do you think? 6 years ago
  • To Patricia A.: I didn't react with interest. I look at the logo and am not offended, but I read the name below, look back at the logo, of course trying to find the creativity, then realize that there is nothing in it that suggests 'Metro' and then realize that there are absolutely no 'Links' in it either. It does qualify as minimalist though. But I did see some skinny hula-hoops! 6 years ago
  • Where is the article content? 6 years ago
  • We need to stop throwing around "copycat" accusations with logos where there is high likelihood that any shared similarities are purely coincidental. There are literally millions upon millions of logos in the world. Most logo designers have created something that they later found mimicked another. The simpler the design is, the greater the chance. The Airbnb logo is so far off from the look of the habitat logo that it's sad the comparison is even being made. The only damn thing they share is a loop. Seriously?! Enough already with the automatic accusations already. 6 years ago
  • really??? 6 years ago