Taylor Swift arrives for the Sundance Film Festival premiere of her Netflix documentary “Miss Americana” at the Eccles Theatre in Park City on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.
Taylor Swift recently released her album ‘Folklore’ on July 24th, 2020. This album was accompanied with merchandise that ended up sparking tons of controversy due to the similarities between the logo and a Black-woman owned company, The Folklore.
Amira Rasool, used Twitter and Instagram to voice her concerns.
In response to these accusations, Taylor Swift simply responded last Thursday, July 30th, saying that she would make a contribution to Amira’s company in addition to supporting the Black in Fashion Council with a donation.
Amira Rasool, used Twitter and Instagram to update followers on this situation
In conclusion of their correspondence, Amira shows gratitude and it seems like the situation is over. However, as a designer, I feel uneasy about the accusation that Amira chooses to have over Taylor Swift.
Amira Rasool and Taylor Swift’s thread pictured on
In my opinion, there are 2 sides of the spectrum in which someone can respond to this situation. Either 01), how dare Taylor Swift cover up this plagiarism through simply making a donation, or 02), is that actually enough to accuse somebody of “stealing” a design?
If there is anything that I learned while being in design school, is that no matter how original think you and your work is, it is most likely that somebody thought about it already.
I would like to add a disclaimer that this is my personal opinion as a graphic designer who has had to create hundreds, if not already thousands of iterations of logos. I do not in any way want to deny or belittle Amira and The Folklore their right to feel offended. I just think that as designers, it is important to look at the specifics as to what exactly makes something plagiarism in design.
It is one thing for a company to directly copy and paste someone’s design like *cough* Urban Outfitters*cough*Forever21*cough, but if you take a look at my analysis, you may want to think again about these strong accusations.
Sam Larson Design Instagram
I admire the general trend that artists are taking accountability for the designers who originally designed logos that they claimed or stole without permission. As a young design student, I go through these anxieties of having other people with more money and legal leverage to take advantage of my work. The TLDR for me is, I really don’t think that this counts as creative plagiarism.
Here are the reasons why I think so:
They are utilizing completely different typefaces in completely different ways
Taylor Swift’s logo utilizes an italicized, all lowercase sans-serif typeface on “folklore” while utilizing all caps for “the” and “album.” The Folklore utilizes a decorative sans-serif that has wider tracking in upper and lowercase and beautifully cradles the word “the” on the F’s side vertically.You can’t “own” a word, phrase or name.
2. You can’t own a phrase or a name unless it was copyrighted/trademarked
Discovering a good name for your brand that is original is so hard that some people have to create different spelled names for their companies in order to stay original (think Lyft vs. Lift). The Folklore is a clothing brand that could have taken legal action if they took specific precautions to point out this overlap in the same (clothing) industry. Seeing as they didn’t, it is quite possible that these two names simply overlapped because these two identities felt that it would be the best word to represent their brand under two completely different contexts.
3. The vertical “the,” may simply just be a coincidental solution
Taylor Swift’s sweater patch is small and rectangular, and well, pretty standard. What I’m assuming happened is that the designer had to make a decision along with various other iterations of how to fit the logo onto the patch. This was the chosen direction of those iterations, and it just so happed to match The Folklore’s current logo placement of the word “the” as well. Knowing the large scale of Taylor Swift’s brand and her team, I am sure that they’ve had to do a lot of research and iteration before coming to this final decision. Again, this is just a theory, but to me seems very valid not out of the ordinary.
While I understand that to someone who doesn’t work with typefaces all day can see how these similarities create an assumption of plagiarism, I feel that sometimes it is also good to think about the other side of the story and have an open conversation regarding these topics. Regardless, I am happy that Taylor Swift is vocally supporting Amira and her company.
I’m curious to know what you all think? Comment down below—I’d love to hear your thoughts.