A touchy subject. AKA, You’re a sensitive lad, aint you, Tommy?

So I was perusing the site of one of my glorious benefactors, shirt.woot.com, when I happened upon a design that seemed strangely familiar to me.  It seemed familiar to me because it is uncannily similar in color, composition, and concept to a design I made a while back called Close Enough, about a drunk-on-the-job stork that mistakenly delivers a baby platypus to a couple of beavers.  Granted, the punchline is different… The design on woot has dropped the booze-addled angle and inserted a pair of ducks, but that’s where the incongruencies begin to become largely aesthetic.

Now, I’ve seen people (especially younger people, and especially on the internet) sound the “RIPPOFF” alarm and get up-in-arms about less striking similarities than this (And obviously I have to at least wonder about the possibility of my work being reprocessed and pilfered for financial gain ($1,000+), which is not at all a good feeling) but I am generally inclined to think otherwise.  One thing I’ve learned the hard way after a few years in the biz is that’s there’s a lot of room for cross-pollination, as it were, and there’s a lot of room for convergent evolution, as it were.  It’s just not that uncommon for two or more people to have the same idea.  It’s not even that uncommon for them both to execute it in similar manners.

I know this the hard way because I once designed a shirt about a narwhal impaling some arctic friends on its horn, which scored well on Threadless and was later printed by them, only to find my work being called a blatant rip-off of a previously existing toy of the same concept*.  I had never seen the toy in my entire life.  I had never heard of the toy in my entire life.  I had zero knowledge of the toy before the day my tee was put up for voting.  And yet, some folks were dead certain that I had willfully plundered the ideas of another for my own personal gain.  This was not, as you might imagine, a pleasant feeling at all.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the feeling that you may have been ripped-off and that someone else may be raking in dough that might have been yours, well, that’s not a good feeling either.  And while it’s not necessarily uncommon for convergent evolution to independently produce two similar solutions to a problem, it’s also not that uncommon for people on the internet to play fast and loose with the art of appropriation, as it were.  In any case, you can decide for yourself, and frankly you may find that these illustrations are about as similar as a cactus and a porcupine, but I thought it was at least interesting enough to blog about, if not fuss over.

Mine, from long ago:

Theirs, from not so long ago:

* Though, I might add, dramatically inferior geographic realism/plausibility 😛

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4 thoughts on “A touchy subject. AKA, You’re a sensitive lad, aint you, Tommy?

  1. WOW, I actually thought two things when I saw this over on woot recently:

    1) They stole Brian’s design.
    2) No they didn’t.

    Funny that you came to the same conclusion.

    It sucks to think that someone MAY have stolen from you…but sucks even more when you’re accused of being a thief and were not at all.

    There are only so many ideas under the sun.

  2. haha, yeah. At first I was just kind of struck by some of the similarities (the angles, the characters, the positioning of the characters, the colors, et al), but yeah, ultimately it’s just not the most ground-breaking concept either way. Shrug.

    And yes, being wrongly accused feels much worse than potentially ripped.

  3. Wow, as soon as I saw your image, I thought of Patrick’s sub, then I scrolled down and there was his.

    I want to comment on the whole ‘cross pollination’ thing, as I’ve had it happen a few times with my own art. In fact, I entered the same derby as the conflicting platypuss design, and mine was also platypusses. Same shirt color, and same general joke, only my punchline was a reverse evolution joke. A few people thought our designs were similar too, but we had no previous knowledge of eachother’s submissions. :\ His won first place, mine did not, hahaha.

    I see similarities in the two images, but they are also quite different if you really study them. Very different drawing styles, and a different joke. I like both very much! Glad to have found your blog and site, great work!!

  4. Haha, wow! What are the odds? It really does just go to show, I guess, anything can happen. I went and found your derby sub and I really like your take on it, not to mention the style. Way cool 🙂

    Nice site too– That turtle animation totally reminds me of Spike from Land Before Time, haha, love it. I hear Austin’s a real nice town, been meaning to go visit a buddy down there. He claims there’s some BBQ there that’s going to change my life.

    Anywho, thanks for the input and for stopping by!

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