Copying an iconic logo design

london underground

From time you time you invariably come across logo designs which to some extent resemble others, ranging from minor similarities to blatant rip-offs.

Some similarities are of course, unavoidable. There are only so many colours, shapes and styles and when distributed across millions of logos they are bound to repeat themselves.

Depending on who and where the duplicate is, discovering your logo design has a duplicate might not be an issue at all. If you run a restaurant in Australia and find one in England with a similar logo design, customers obviously aren’t going to get you confused and go to the wrong one… but what about these?

london underground

The first image shown in this post is of course the iconic logo design for the London Underground, designed in 1917 by Edward Johnston (refined from the original 1908 mark). I think you’d be struggling to call these two, Scooter Central and Frost Design, anything but direct copies.

I’m particularly surprised at Vince Frosts decision to use the mark, as his internationally renowned studio does great original work. I’d love to know the rationale for copying such and iconic and recognisable design. I wouldn’t want the first thing potential clients see to be a copy of another design they know.

I’ve also seen the mark used for a candy store, a Japanese clothing store, a meat company and a few other places I can’t recall specifically.

What do you think?

Why you’d directly copy something anyway I’m not sure, let alone something as recognizable as this. Perhaps I’m being overly critical but when I look at these all I see are copies, how about you?

18 thoughts on “Copying an iconic logo design”

  1. I’ve seen a logo before that was similar but I didn’t know it was originally the London Underground logo ( not that I’m a logo designer or anything mind you… ) perhaps it’s not as familiar to the average Joe as it is to you as a designer?

  2. Edward Johnston died in 1944 so I think you’ll find that the London Underground logo was probably designed around 1915. Yes I’m afraid these do look like copies.

    One could argue that as the original logo is such a classic and has been in existence for such a long time that these are a pastiche or homage (which I’m happy to see) but these just look like rip-offs to me.

  3. Steven,
    I’m thinking the same thing.

    Stan G,
    You’re right that every person isn’t going to know the original logo and might not recognize a copy, but I definitely think it’s recognizable enough not to use it.

    Oops, got my dates mixed up there somewhere. The correct information is now there, thanks for the catch.

  4. I grew up in India and in my growing up years I saw this icon on every station in India wherever I went ( Mind you, Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world and there are sooooo many stations ), see one here.

    British ruled India and perhaps this is where these originated. In my mind this icon is associated with a rail stop, any rail stop, a station. It was only after many many years that I realized in the Western world people associated it with The London Underground.

    In my travels through South East Asia and now in Australia, I have seen this style being used everywhere from Kid’s Stores to fashion stores to book stores. Till a year ago I actually thought “Oh clever! They are using the railway station sign”.

    I think the common man just associates it in that manner. And yes the others are copies, everyone just likes using them and thinks its kind of tongue-in-cheek I reckon.

  5. They’re pure rip-offs. The structure is ok to copy somewhat because it is rather obvious and simple. The trick though is the color scheme. Red circle with a blue rectangle containing white text in both the copies and the original logo.

    They are copied because the folks utilizing those logos are most likely betting that the familiarity of the London Underground logo will benefit them. I see it a lot with smaller companies especially if they happen to have a commonality in the name.

  6. Sneh,
    I have no idea if that’s true but the British rule of India sounds like a logical reason for the same logo. India became independent in the late 40’s so the times align.

    I’m with you, obviously using simple geometric shapes your bound to find similar designs, but these are pure copies which I’m not a fan off.

  7. I’ve never understood the reason to copy the logo of another business. I can understand using an existing design as a base if they are associated with a certain type of business and are easily recognisable but I still prefer to be original. It helps you stand out from the crowd.

  8. Ewan,
    I would think that if you’re using the logo of someone prominent in your field as a base only, by the time you altered it enough to be distinct you might as well have created something original.

  9. Last year the local government in London was thinking about copywriting and protecting more of its designs ranging from the TFL tube logos to the Westminster street signs.

    If this actually happened then it would be bad news for people using or selling the many fakes (fake tube designs on hats, clothing, key rings, badges, bits and bobs and many other things and momentos we like to buy when we’re on holiday) as they would have to pay a royalty and lose a significant amount of revenue.

    In the end the government decided the not go through with it because it will cause more bad than good to ordinary people, and I agree. I used to work in an organisation where the logo was a copy of the Westminster street sign, if it was copywrited we would of had to do some major rebranding, the street sign logo was very good and is an important asset.

    I feel I should add the organisation I used to work for was the University of Westminster Students’ Union, hence why the street sign was copied and it made good sense. Instantly recognisable, especially at national conferences where other delegates can easily recognise where we’re from without even reading out logo.

    TFL has some great logos and branding, it doesn’t get the credit it deserves sometimes.

  10. I would also like to add, sometimes it is important to remember there is a difference between ripping something off or copying it in a way which gives a tribute and a complement to the original.

  11. Amar,

    “the organisation I used to work for was the University of Westminster Students’ Union, hence why the street sign was copied and it made good sense”

    Something like that I can appreciate, where I get lost is seeing an icon like the London Underground copied for restaurants, candy, clothes and a plethora of other odd choices.

  12. Andrew,

    I couldn’t agree more, too often copied logos have very small or even no relationship to the original, which is of course bad in its own way as we may not be able to make the connection.

  13. I am sure I am not the first to say it but this HAS to be intentional. There is no way Vincent Frost is naive enough to think he can get away with ripping off one of the most iconic symbols in the UK. Just Sayin’.

  14. Scott,

    I’m sure you’re right. I’m not suggesting he was attempting to rip off the design without getting caught, personally I just don’t understand the decision ( made by anyone, not just Vince ) to copy a logo that’s internationally recognised as something else?

  15. Haasey,

    There are certainly similarities to the early Nissan logo, especially considering the colours, but I believe you’ll find that Nissan was founded in the mid 1930’s, well after this logo was already in use.

Comments are closed.