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Use of real logos in design language exercises

Postby gmay3able » February 21st, 2017, 4:24 pm

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Hey guys, I'm working on a design language type exercise for my portfolio and I was wondering what the best practice is for using a real companies logo in your portfolio for a theoretical design language study. I've seen a bunch of these in other portfolios but I wanted to do my homework before doing this myself.

Is it generally acceptable to incorporate a companies branding on your concept without permission from the company assuming its just a scholarly exercise?

Re: Use of real logos in design language exercises

Postby iab » February 21st, 2017, 4:47 pm


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Technically you would be profiting by getting a job. A lawyer may come down on you, but you as a student doing it as an exercise and me as a potential employer, I'd even be fine if it were my company.

Once out of school and in a job, no. You should be showing the work you did on the job.

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It happens all the time for schools. Every car designer who ever penned a Ferrari and stuck a prancing horse on their art board hasn't gotten approved consent. You can include a wordmark like "Logo copyright XXX Corporation" and that will cover you. Worst case scenario they send you a cease and desist and you have to remove it.

Re: Use of real logos in design language exercises

Postby Mrog » February 21st, 2017, 5:39 pm


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While many students do it, it is certainly not legal. I know of two student projects that carried unofficial "branding" of some sort and they got into some trouble (angry calls and lawyer letters). As far as I know nothing financially painful happened, but signing a document that you will never ever use or show your design work again is tough enough (especially when it is a big thesis project, ouch).
And yes, it is a dick move (how we call it in bird language) to trouble students with that, but keep in mind that big brands usually employ a bunch of bored lawyers who will dig through the internet to specifically find infringments regarding their client's brand. They don't really care if you are "just a student". That said, you will reduce the risk to get into trouble significantly if you just don't upload your work to the internet and just include it into your pdf portfolio... or pick a brand that is too small to bother wasting resources on that kind of stuff. :wink:
Also I don't really know the legal situation in the US, it might be different... you guys also have fair use and such - some things are much stricter over here!

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Thanks for the feedback guys, I appreciate it. I guess that's maybe why I see some students do this exercise outside the brands usual product space like an Adidas toaster.

I'll be more specific about what I want to do. I've worked with mostly startups so I wanted to try doing this exercise with a personal project. I've been working on a virtual reality glove concept that I'm only taking as far as doing a digital sketch render and I'm using the Oculus design language. I'm not planning to do a 3D model and 3D rendering, I feel like that could get more heat because it may be confused. I'm hoping it will be clear that it's a concept sketch but I'll make sure to say this is an educational exercise and cite ownership of the logo somewhere on the picture.

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If you're doing a digital sketch I honestly wouldn't be that concerned. Like I said, here in the US the best case they get is a "cease and desist" where you can then change the tagline to "Mockulus a FaceSpace company", or just leave the brand off it and focus on the sketch. A nice sketch will work fine regardless of if it has a big O and an Oculus logo. If you keep their trademarked logo off it no one can sue you over using an oval shape.

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Haha that's a good point, thanks Cyberdemon.

Re: Use of real logos in design language exercises

Postby yo » February 23rd, 2017, 12:12 pm

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I think professional designers do concept projects, speculative work, to get exposure all the time. I've seen tons of concept project go viral and sometimes end with the designer working at that company. It think some companies see it as a benefit, if someone wants to put in that effort and promote their brand.

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You guys got back to me at the perfect time to add a few extra layers in my sketch file to be able add or remove the logo on the concept easily. Thanks for that!

I guess I'll try it with the logo first and if there are any issues raised by doing it I can revert to the logo-free design.


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