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I have to confess, I love Instagram. Hands down, it’s my favorite way to view what the interwebs have to offer. It’s a way for me to curate the content and images I want to see from friends, companies, artists, fellow designer and brands that I admire.

The Good: Instagram as Marketing.

Instagram and other social media outlets now play a huge role for artists, designers and agencies to showcase their work and artistic skills. Designers and companies alike are using social media to promote and sell their work. After all, in order for someone to hire you, use your services or buy your work, they need to see what you are capable of, right?

The Bad: When Exposure Leaves Designers Exposed.

This wildly popular and promotional tool has helped designers and artists gain exposure to audiences around the world, but sometimes people have taken advantage of that.

Recently, companies like Zara and Gucci have been accused of copying designs that smaller, independent artist have shared on their own Instagram accounts. In what is probably the most egregious case, Zara has been accused of using the designs from well over 20 independent designers to create pins, patches and stickers.

At www.shoparttheft.com, you can view the side-by-side comparisons of the artist original art along with the offerings that had been created by Zara. This site was created to bring attention to how similar (I want to say almost identical) the designs are to the artists’ originals.

Zara-copyrighting Instagram: The Good, The Bad and The Copycats

In another example, Australian artist, Milan Chagoury, created a logo design for White Tiger Tattoo Co. in 2015. A few years later, Gucci released a design in their Cruise 2018 Show that was almost identical to that of Chagoury’s design – except instead of a tiger, the design featured a panther. On his Instagram, Cyhagoury called attention to this similarity in design and stated, “It’s ok to be inspired but there are an infinite ways of representing a concept and being original is a key way of standing out in this business.”

Business_Insider Instagram: The Good, The Bad and The Copycats

The Copycats and the Line Drawn.

Clearly, I am not alone in using Instagram as a tool for inspiration and ideas…

A “fellow” designer created the almost identical artwork to create the pins sold by Zara. A “fellow” designer created the near identical artwork on the totes for Gucci. Those designers were actively copying the work of another. That is poor practice and poor judgement on behalf of both those designers and companies that used the artwork.

On the flip side, however, once the copied artwork has made it to Instagram, the community was quick to rise up and point out the similarities and theft of ideas. They spoke out in support of the designers and artist who created the original artwork. As a result, the companies removed products, took down Instagram posts.

So, What Do We Do Now?

As designers and artist, we pull inspiration from a multitude of sources, but that is just what those sources should be – inspiration. As professionals it is our duty to give clients our original concepts and design ideas. When it comes to marketing and advertising, the end result of our work is always made public and shared. We should never have to hide our work for fear that it will be copied or stolen.

The web has facilitated the widespread use of advertising and the creation of new, advanced platforms in which we can share our work, Instagram just being one. But along with those possibilities for exposure and reach can come the threat of other designers using your work or designs.

Businesses and artist alike need to take steps to ensure the artwork they are creating, for themselves and on behalf of their clients, is original.

No copycats here.

Kera Drake

Born and raised in Phoenix, Kera completed her studies at the University of Michigan with a liberal arts degree and later went on to study Graphic Design. With 8+ years of design experience, including running her own boutique design agency, Kera has worked with clients such as Harley-Davidson, Synergy Global Entertainment, Water for People and TGen Foundation. Most recently, she has worked with CVS Health, City of Tempe, and Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services. Kera loves her dog, her Harley-Davidson, and America.