SPB changes WILD branding due to similarity to professional designer’s work

and | Senior Editors

The Social Programming Board revised a design used to promote fall WILD on social media after executive members learned that the design was similar to that of a professional designer, James Joyce.

According to SPB’s official statement, the design work was the product of a team effort, rather than any individual member of the organization. Senior Bonner Williams, vice president of programming for Student Union and an adviser for SPB, said that the design team, like all of SPB, is not compensated for work and did not receive any payment based on the creation of the promotional materials.

IMG_4020Social Programming Board

Senior and SPB President Jessie Bluedorn said that no one on SPB’s team of designers was aware of the existence of Joyce’s design.

“They reported it as…the first time they had seen that specific piece of work,” Bluedorn said. “Sometimes you see things out in the world…and it comes to mind, but your brain perceives it as a spark of inspiration instead of what it is—which is a memory of something else. That was what was described to us as the cause of these similarities.”

While Bluedorn declined to say whether this particular design was scheduled to be printed on merchandise, SPB’s official statement stated that the mistake was brought to their attention Wednesday morning, before the creation of any printed promotional materials or apparel.

“Immediately after it was brought to our attention, we changed it,” Bluedorn said. “There was no discussion not to. As soon as we heard, we took immediate action.”

Jonathan Hanahan, an assistant professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, said that the issue of plagiarism versus appropriation is a common one in the design and artistic profession. Though artistic appropriation can be hard to pin down, Hanahan said that specific design elements between SPB and Joyce’s designs indicate plagiarism.

“There’s too much that’s similar,” Hanahan said. “With the color, organization…the grids are the same…the orientation of the drop shadow is the same.”

Hanahan said that the intention of the work has a large bearing on the distinction between appropriation and plagiarism.

“There’s certainly moments where copying something is totally viable for a specific reason but this just seems like laziness,” Hanahan said. “There’s no content relationship; there’s no previous sort of personal relationship between here and the original design.”

Joyce’s work, titled “Oh Me Oh My,” was originally printed as a poster in an edition of 25 at Print Club London. The original poster sold out but has also been printed as a letterpress card.

Joyce’s representatives could not be reached at time of publication.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.