Steve Douglas on August 16th, 2009

Kelowna Logo Copy?

Little bit of a dustup going up Kelowna way in British Columbia, thanks to the city’s newly unveiled logo. The design, part of an $80,000 rebranding project, was warmly received by city council members until it was suggested that the supposedly pine-cone inspired logo looked awfully similar to a logo designed a few years back for a US real estate company called Sunhaven, by another US company called Lend Design. According to CTV news, the new city logo was created by a Phred Martin, a local designer (for ten grand), working through Splash Design, a local design firm (paid eighty grand). Lend Design are currently “investigating” whether or not copyright infringement has actually taken place. The designer, supposedly “out of town” was unavailable for official comment when the news broke, told city officials by phone that he’d never seen the earlier rendition.

City plans to release all preliminary designs

According to the Kelowna city website, the city council plans to release all the working files on the project (once they’ve figured out whether or not they have the right to do so). “I don’t think that releasing them is sort of an issue for us, but what we don’t want to do is overstep our ability until we’re sure that we can.” city manager Ron Mattiussi is quoted as saying. ““There are other logos, they were there as part of the process. We just want to make sure that we can release them. There are instances where people do work that it’s still their property, so we just want to make sure we don’t run afoul” he added. Kelowna media relations manager Carla Stephens was quick to defend Martin, telling media that “He wouldn’t risk his credibility nor damage the city’s reputation… for whatever it is he received.”

Is it a rip?

Oddly enough, I don’t think so. Just another one of those strangely bizarre instances where two designers come up with similar concepts with the second oblivious to the other. Logo Design Love has written an excellent article on when logos look similar which illustrates numerous times that this has happened in the past. As far as the similarities go, the designs are quite different – it’s the color that makes them look really, really alike. And there’s probably a good reason for that. The palette is obviously based on a complementary color wheel and both are actually examples of color theory 101. The Kelowna logo DOES look like the bottom of a pine cone (as the designer as claimed) while the Sunhaven version DOES look like a sun, influenced no doubt by the name of the company. Trouble is, the logos are similar enough, and the kerfluffle is just high profile enough that I’d assume the accepted Kelowna logo will be “un-accepted” fairly shortly, with another mark in its place. If that does happen, how it will effect the business end of the deal is anyone’s guess. What happens to the rep of the designer, or the company that hired him, will only become apparent once the issue plays out, people have got their stories straight and talked to the press. Probably all end up to be another great example of design by committee.

If I were to make one observation, it would be in the labeling of the images on the various websites linked above. They refer to the Kelowna logo as simply that, while adding the word “original” to the caption for the Sunhaven example. Seems someone in the Kelowna website department has already made up their minds.

So what do you think – knock-off or not? I know, let’s take a poll…




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11 Comments to “Kelowna logo design dust-up”

  1. There is a difference in both. But both representing the Sun. Am I correct?

  2. Bruce Logos says:

    It is a similar logo design and the logo designer should know about it

  3. Daryl says:

    This is a case of plagiarism, whether conscious or subconscious on the part
    of the designer. The similarity in shape and overall design could be coincidental. Sure.
    The designer explained that his inspiration was a pine cone. There’s probably a hundred
    other logos with similar shapes and structures out there in the world. All inspired by pine cones.
    However, it is the nearly identical colour treatment (both colour palette and where
    the colours are applied) that gives this designer’s theft away.

  4. Devil’s advocate here; Bruce – if not deliberate, how *should* he have known about it? Is there a reference guide, book or repository (let alone a website) that lists and displays all the world’s tens of MILLIONS of logos?


    It’s happened just once to me in eight years and it damn near scared the crap out of me. But what can you do?

  5. Brent says:

    Exactly four circular rows of the exact same CMYI colour scheme. Sorry, but this is a blatant ripoff. All he has done is reversed the direction of the triangles. A coincidence of this magnetude is about as rare as winning the lottery.

  6. Chris says:

    Who cares? Both logos suck. They are complicated. They look like crap, and they can’t possibly reproduce well in news print and B/W. Fail.

  7. The most likely situation is that he saw the logo somewhere and it persisted in the back of his head when he went to design the new one. The better question is WTF Kelowna is doing paying $80k for this…many many many designers I know would go through dozens if not hundreds of iterations for even $3k.

  8. The most likely situation is that he saw the logo somewhere and it persisted in the back of his head until he did the design. $80k though, really?

  9. Logon says:

    Yes.. This is sad..

  10. DPI Creative says:

    This is quite the situation, did it ever get resolved? Never even heard of Splash design but now I know where all our city contracts go! This guy is charging $80k in town, wow time to make a sales call down to the City of Kelowna!

    We could blow all those logos on their portfolio away for $3k as Castanet was on target about for identity branding. Another example of our tax payers dollars wasted!

    • Monte says:

      This was an interesting story but most of the reporting was inaccurate and people as seen above formed opinions based misinformation. Are the designs similar yes they are, given the millions of designs available on on the internet as was pointed out it can happen. The similar Logo was leaked by a competitor. It did not cost 80k and although the $10k figure for design was reported many times it is always ignored. The process also involved a variety of focus groups and interviews with over forty people and many workshops with City Council. It also included a detailed design standards guide for using the logo on everything from signs to T-Shirts. Now if you are prepared to do all of that for $3k make sure to call the City in a few years. In the end the City was tired of a fifteen year old logo that the original design was embarrassed about. They wanted a symbol of change and diversity. The focus groups thought it should also feature the sun which symbolizes energy and fun. Other then a few older people and people who general like to hate government it seems to be accepted and dare I say liked.