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  • Writer's pictureCajvanean C. Alexandru

How Design Work Is Being Stolen and The Hidden Dangers of Buying Fraudulent Design Work


How Design Work Is Being Stolen - Cajva

From the age of 18 until my mid-20s, I was traveling from home to college by train. A road that crosses the country of Romania diagonally, and it is quite the experience. Back in the day, it was called the road of hunger. More than 600 kilometers or over 380 miles can take anywhere from 14 up to 20 hours or even more sometimes. Those times when it’s too hot and the engines need cooling or times when it's too cold and the snow is blocking up the track. Well, as terrible as that sounds, the tracks are passing beautiful mountains, forests, and wide patches of greenery. In fact, in the summer the views are so full of green that any city you enter seems sad and gray, especially due to the communist infrastructure and architecture. Ah yes, the contrast.


I used to travel by night with a small hunting knife at hand. Probably the only thing that I could rely on and although I never had to use it, it was more of a symbol of safety mixed with fear. I encountered individuals who broke out of jail and were on the run, I spent the night with all sorts of people with questionable behavior and beliefs. Drunk, drugged, people crying, people suffering and all in between. I meet beautiful and smart people as well—the whole flora and fauna.


There were no sleeping wagons, just plain simple compartments of 6 or 8 seats. Usually, it was packed with people but by the time the sun came up, it was getting emptier and so I had enough space to lie and stretch over a row of seats. One morning I was so tired that I fell asleep. A sleep so deep that I dreamed a week's worth of dreams in just a few minutes. And in this exact window, I was robbed of my wallet which was inside my jacket in a closed pocket.


I woke up and went through all stages of terror, hatred, and sadness. Acceptance came much later, months later. All the money that was supposed to last me for a month or two, my papers, ID, and student IDs as well, all gone. I was hoping that the thief would take the money and throw the wallet with my papers somewhere in a toilet or an empty compartment. I had roughly 150$ and while it wasn't much, it was worth triple the value to me, a student who was just too far away from home and with no job. Nothing was found. I was so mad and so full of hate that it all just added to the misery. In time I did my new IDs and went through a lot of bureaucracy but I got back to normal and with that, I just let go of all the pain and the despise I was carrying around for too long.


Being robbed is more than just losing valuable things, is a violation of your intimacy. It makes you aware of your vulnerability. Someone stealing your money might as well steal your innocence. Your hatred for the act could turn your moral values upside down and make you a corrupt and alienated person. One might start looking for revenge and even lose hope in humanity. It happens on all levels starting from a small act as pickpocketing up to governments, countries, and wars.


design police is coming to get you steal poster by cajva


While I can say with a light heart that I haven’t been robbed ever since I would lie.

 

Sure, no one stole my wallet or my goods, but people stole my work. I’ve found my work for sale on all kinds of questionable websites, stock sites, and even serious and trustworthy companies' websites. I’ve seen my work used by companies who never paid or even asked if they could use my creations although not all the time is the company’s fault at large. I like the story of Dave Chapelle where someone offers to buy his joke but when he asks for the joke back the elder man tells him “Why should I buy it when I can just take it from you?”.


The careers of the so-called designers who do nothing but steal are short-lived. The lie and the thievery eventually catch up and there is nothing they can do. I believe these people should work as curators for the design portfolio type of websites. They obviously have good taste.


It happened once that the client came back asking for explanations as to why one company uses the same logo as they do since they bought it from me. I like this situation just as much as they did. They thought I sold it twice. It never happens. Never did, never will. I do work exclusively and if the client asks, I’m more than happy to sign an NDA and just leave the work we did in a forgotten folder where the only thing that could reach it, is the dust.


Does the work get stolen, reproduced or just inspire a close enough design?


I think they just right-click, “save as” and upload it on the next website. Sometimes is just that but most of the time they change the name but they keep the pictogram, monogram, letterform, or emblem intact. The work is uploaded on different stock websites, logo generators, or social media pages presenting the work as their own. This happens so often that it just makes me laugh at how ridiculous it is. Sometimes, one pays for a design service and they receive already designed concepts that they might accept and start to use. But in time, they discover that they were played for fools.


Here are some examples of some of my work you might find on various websites. Although I’ve asked repeatedly for the work to be taken down, it rarely happens. Ignorance, greed, and in general a lack of problem-solving skills are the walls that I hit every so often.



honey whale original logo by cajva

I'm astounded by how many companies use one of my logo designs called Honey Whale. I've come up with the naming and the logo back in 2016 and I originally posted the logo here. I then sold the logo exclusively to a company from South Africa, their website is https://www.honeywhale.co.za. Later on, I found out there are quite a few companies that are using this name and logo including one manufacturer of scooters now check these companies right here: Comp 1, Comp 2, and Comp 3.

I have no idea where they bought this logo from, but they didn't buy it from me and I didn't give any permission to use my work as a company logo or name for that matter. So yeah, they just stole it and used it without any permission. No one answers the email and they don't care.


Another example is Inkstop Logo which I found conveniently on Adobe Stock. I could go on and on and provide so many examples and links but would not solve anything. I lost count of how many times I've seen my work on so many different Fiverr Accounts, Instagram profiles and so on.



logo designs by cajva


I’m not the only one in this position, almost every good designer I know goes through this daily. The better the designer, the more often he is copied, reproduced, or just straight-up robbed. One of them is Kreatank/Daniel Bodea, a highly skilled designer with amazing ideas and gorgeous executions. You might recognize his work since is all over the place, posted by him, or reposted by thieves. When you reach a high level of skill your creations are so beautiful that they become the perfect target for these low-level people who just want to make a profit on other’s backs. Here are some examples of how his work is being sold and resold and how ignorance by the owners of those platforms encourages these acts of stealing.


One of Daniel's most stolen works is the Wolf Pack which he originally created. Now check these thieves - Stolen Logo 1, Stolen Logo 2, Stolen Logo 3 . . . not to mention on Adobe Stock are like 3 variations of tracing, and I could go on and on on.


original design work by kreatank bodea daniel

Here are some other designers who have had their work stolen and sold on various stock and logo generator websites. Artists and designers such as Nick Molokovich, Denis Davydov, Simc, Konstantin Reshetnikov, Milos Djuric, and Andrii Kovalchuk have such a distinct and unique style that can't be replicated and so the only option these thieves have is to just take the work as it is and hope no one notices. But we notice.

The works presented here as stolen have been reported and brought up to the website owners. Hopefully, action will be taken and they will remove these fraudulent designs.
Logo Designs by various designers original and fraud


Some of the links might not work and that's great news because the stolen work has been removed.


What is the impact of these actions?


Designers are a struggling breed as they are, they rarely get rich doing design work. So even a small thing as reselling their work means a loss in revenue. People will buy the cheaper version, so why hire a designer when his exact can be found on a stock website for a fraction of the cost? But they don’t know if the money never reaches the original owner.


Stealing intellectual propriety could also destroy a designer's reputation. Not only as a personal image or as a personal brand but they can lose customer’s trust and lose sales. I don’t need to go far in explaining that this kind of immoral action could destroy one’s business and affect his life.  


How can designers avoid this and protect themselves?


All kinds of national and international laws protect creative work. Usually, the original creator owns the copyright for the piece he created and in most cases is quite easy to prove that in a court. Although extremely rare it gets to the point where the law is involved. Because it’s easy to prove the original owner of a piece of work and the evidence is there, the party who has work from questionable sources usually backs off avoiding costs for a court case. Most of the time is easier and cheaper to rebrand than to defend a case without evidence.


"Stop sharing your designs on the internet" some might suggest. Sharing your work on the internet as a form of attracting new clients is crucial for a freelancer. But is this safe? Yes, it is. Sharing your work under your name and a date is the perfect evidence of ownership. While you can add more protection to this by having your work registered, this process could become quite expensive.


What can you do as a client, to make sure you are getting quality design work and paying the right person?


The rise of corporations and marketplaces for design services also creates a huge impact on an individual’s economy and creativity. These creative marketplaces for freelance services charge up to 20% fees from the value of a project. Transferring the money from one place to another includes more fees. Running a business comes with quite a few other fees that vary from one country to another. When the money finally reaches the creative person it just crumbles off what you might initially pay for. It's incredible how one creative mind generates enough value to keep so many businesses running, from marketplaces, banks, governments, and even robbers, everyone gets to put food on the table. I’m not saying the creative industry single-handedly sustains the global economy, not even a bit, all I’m saying is how many people get to profit from small creative brains.


I know it's extremely tempting to buy a cheap logo from some stock website. Unfortunately, it won't serve you for long and just putting a random vector that you like and some text, is not going to be effective. In some cases, you might be eligible for fines and legal compensation. On the other hand, hiring an artist can be expensive.


However, hiring a designer only for yourself not only will prove one of the best investments you can make but you will also get custom work that will prove to be a powerful tool for you and your business. These designers are dedicated body and soul to this craft and your success means their success as well. Not to mention, hiring a designer is not some form of money waste, you are paying a man to work for you so he can keep a business running and provide for those around him. You both get to serve the world and both receive back more than you put in.


So what I suggest is to do some homework, search deeper for a creative person, and try to remove as many of these middlemen as possible. There aren't so many of us out there, once you find a good one, you will find the whole community. This applies even when buying physical products. You need to read reviews and make a decision by yourself about what is the right decision because once you set foot inside a store, there are quite a few people who know what is best for you if you don’t.


The people who are suffering the most due to these frauds are the actual buyers. Those who are selling fake or stolen designs are rarely if ever brought to justice.

Once you find a trustworthy designer and receive the right logo for your company, take all legal precautions to protect your identity. Registering the logo by hiring a trademark attorney could protect your company's identity from all kinds of fraud.


I’m always hoping this practice will get lost in time but a small part of me knows for a fact it won’t.


I don’t believe the practice of stealing will ever stop. Hell, even this article might be copied and reposted. The irony . . . Happens on all levels, your house can be broken by burglars, you can be pickpocketed, and even your bank account can be emptied by all kinds of methods. Not to mention that some con artists can break into your mind and twist and deceive your perception. The act of fooling, stealing, and taking by force can be defined as inhumane, but it is as humane as it gets.


One can become bitter after one or more of these experiences but you must find it in your heart to move past hatred which can poison your soul. Finding serenity, peace, and joy in the outside world is impossible, we must find it within ourselves. However, as hard as it is, finding these beautiful things inside us, makes it impossible for the outside world to take them away.

_____________________


Send me your recommendation or start a conversation.


I write on this blog almost weekly and you can find details about my graphic design work and get in touch on this website.

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