pastiche, homage or just plain old rip-off?

Posted on Mar 4, 2011 | 5 Comments

Outside the Oxford Circus branch of Niketown in London there’s a typographic wall installation in one of the windows. It’s a direct imitation of Lou Dorfsman’s iconic masterpiece gastrotypographicalassemblage. Obviously it’s an homage to the original. Nike have created their own original, stunning work over the years and they have more than enough credit in the credibility bank. It’s very beautifully done but I still prefer the charm of the Dorfman’s.

It does beg the question though, when is something okay to copy and when is it not? Maybe it’s okay when something is so well-known that it’s obvious to everyone. Maybe it also helps that you are one of the biggest brands in the world doing the copy. Perhaps the passing of time also makes it more acceptable. No-one criticizes you when you create something in a Victorian style. I guess the lines blur when the work being copied is newer and you’re trying to pass it off as original.

Where do you think the line should be drawn?


  1. Luke Jones
    March 6, 2011

    If it’s an obvious homage and/or imitation to an original piece of popular graphic design then I think it’s fine. Particularly if they do a good job, which Nike have managed to do.

    As soon as someone tries to imitate without being open and/or does a bad job of it, I think that’s where the line should be drawn.

  2. Rob Sutton
    March 7, 2011


    Agree with all of that. Although it never bothers me if I see something that’s a blatant rip off but is really badly done. It just makes the original seem even better.

  3. Luke Jones
    March 7, 2011


    Well, there’s definitely some logic in that argument that I’ve never really though of.

    “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is a quote that comes to mind. A little while bag somebody blatantly ripped an old site I’d designed, that was annoying because it was exactly the same colours, style etc and even certain elements had been ripped… It really annoyed me.

    However, I recently saw a design which was clearly inspired by mine, but looked great, they’d re-created certain things etc and I wasn’t bothered at all. If anything, it was somewhat of an achievement.

  4. Graham Clifford
    April 5, 2011

    hey, check this out —

  5. Rob Sutton
    April 5, 2011

    Graham, guess it’s a popular style right now. That’s pretty nicely done. Thanks for the link.

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