With new designers coming in, we sometimes see an increase in Logo Court cases about using clipart. I would like to expound upon 48hourslogo’s position about using clipart in logos.
It was early on a Saturday morning. The computer lab was dimly lit by monitor screens. My friend Elliot and I were the only ones there, working on separate projects. I had just started college and was going to try to design business cards for my mother. Trouble was, I didn’t realize what all I could do graphic-wise between Illustrator and Quark (it was 2003). I asked Elliot “how do I get access to clipart for these cards?” His scoffing reply opened up my mind to the new world I was entering into:
“Huh, you’re a graphic designer now, make your own clipart!”
Clip-art is defined by Merriam-Webster as “ready-made usually copyright-free illustrations sold in books or as part of a software package from which they may be cut and pasted or inserted as artwork.” Made famous by Microsoft Office software like Word and Powerpoint, clip art is primarily used for as quick reference artwork. People who use clipart are typically not specifically artists. That’s why it’s a bit faux pas for graphic designers using clipart in their designs.
USING CLIPART IN LOGOS
At 48hourslogo, in the Designer Code of Conduct, its states:
We understand that there may be some instances where using clipart in logos can be an enhancing element to a design. If a designer insists on using clipart in logos, which we do not recommend, there must be sufficient changes to the artwork. It must also not be a significant portion of then design. Violation of these rules are grounds for removing the submission from the contest, a Warning Point to the designer, and a monetary penalty. Extreme cases can include permanent suspension as a logo designer with 48hourslogo.com.
So what exactly are “sufficient changes?” The point of the rules are to encourage original creativity. If you insist on using clipart in logos, there must be numerous changes to the artwork beyond orientation and color. This means adding to it, taking away some elements. As a logo designer it is expected that you have a working knowledge of vector editing software so you can quickly and easily make changes to vector artwork.
When I was in college the general rule of thumb for artwork across all mediums was to have seven specific changes to existing artwork for it to be considered “new” or “original.” The point is that you are taking a base element and making thorough alterations to it. The altered clip-art should not resemble something someone else can download online. You can read the case of Rogers vs. Koons to see how important numerous changes are.
Any altered clipart used should only enhance the focal elements of a logo design, not be the focus points themselves. This means no clipart (even altered) as part of title text, the main icon, or illustrative image. Using them in that capacity is grounds for removal of the submitted design.
Honestly, it should be easier to create a new, original piece of artwork than to spend time altering ready-made clip-art. Creative originality and vector editing skills should be foundational to any logo designer. Creating vector objects yourself should serve to push your skills beyond the limits. It’s professional growth. It also provides business owners with logos that they can be sure are original. They shouldn’t be able to find parts of their logo downloadable online.
Let me tell all the new designers a variation what my friend Elliot told me.