A designer’s guide to dealing with copycats

Jan 17, 2019

Ever had a carefree stroll through social media turn into the
depressing discovery that your design work has been copied?

I feel you, lady. It sucks. But … You’re not alone.

There must be something in the water, because I’ve seen a lot of posts in our Designer Boss-Ladies Facebook group recently about designer copycats.

“She copied the logo I created for a client!”
“That’s the exact colour palette and style I used!”

“Um, excuse me, is she kidding me with that layout? That’s totally mine!”

Ugh. The pain. The sorrow. The heartache.
But also … the inevitability.

Yep, just like the inevitability of death and taxes, I can almost 100% guarantee that you will be copied at some point in your career. I’m also 99.999% certain you’ll even be accused of copying someone else at some point in your career (even if it’s untrue).

Yes, we’re special snowflakes with very unique, individual ideas … but sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, our ideas end up, well, the same.

I wrote a blog post about this very topic years ago, which you can read about here.

“Anna, I don’t care WHY it happens. I want to know WHAT to bloody do about it!”
You’re probably yelling right now, all while you sharpen your vengeance stick.

Put the stick down, lady.

I know how frustrating it used to be when you’d come home from school and say to mum “Johnny was being mean to me today! He snatched my ruler and wouldn’t give it back,” and she’d respond with, “Ignore him”.

But, as usual, mum was right.

You could drive yourself bonkers dealing with copycats …

… Or you could save your sanity and just ignore them.

“BUT ANNA!” You yell even louder. “It’s wrong! It’s unfair! I demand justice!”
Yes, it’s wrong. Yes, it’s unfair. But … it’s part of life.

I remember sitting in my psychologist’s office after my husband left me for another woman while I was five months pregnant with our second child. I was crying, saying to her, “WHY? It’s not fair! It’s wrong! Something must be done!”

Her calm response was:

“You cannot change him…
You cannot change what happened…
You can only choose how to move forward.”

Which is exactly my advice to you:
Move. Forward.

Here’s how.


Send ‘em an e-mail.
Before you do anything, you need to get their side of the story. Assume the best. There could be an explanation for what happened. So, before you whip out your vengeance stick, reach out to them directly and send them an e-mail that’s calm and friendly.

Not sure what to say? Try something along the lines of …

Hey [Name],

I hope you are well!

I just wanted to send you a quick email about a project of yours I saw on [insert platform]. It reminded me a lot of my project here [insert location/link].

I totally understand that the internet and trends have made the design world a small place, so I just wanted to check-in and see what your thoughts were on the similarity of these two projects.

Thanks & talk soon,

[Your name]

That’s it. Talk to them like a human and you are far more likely to get a human response. Talk to them with accusations and bitterness and that’s what you’ll be served in return.

Vent and then forget it.
Have a good ol’ bitch to your partner/mum/dog/cat/stuffed toy and release alllll of that pent-up wtf negative emotion. Get it out and talk through it. But do not badmouth them online. Ever. It’s just not cool, okay? You’re above that.

Then once you have it all out, make a conscious decision to get over it. Choose to move on and let it go because, seriously, it’s not worth your energy and emotion.

And I knooowwww, this is easier said than done. But here are a few things I do in order to get bad shit out of my head.


  • Water my garden. No, that’s not a euphemism. And yep, it’s totally an old lady thing to do. But standing barefoot on the grass and mindlessly watering my plants grounds me. #happyplace
  • Go to the beach and plop on the sand like a marooned starfish. But a happy marooned starfish, ‘cos beach waves are relaxing.  
  • Move my body. I dance with my daughters, go for a hike or just stand up and shake my body from my head to my toes.
  • … Then I eat some cake. No explanation needed.

Keep your eyes on your own work.
As a designer, it’s hard to know the difference between innocent inspiration gathering and a dip into designer depression.

One sign you’ve taken the plunge away from inspiration? If you’re following a bunch of other designers online and their work/posts/existence makes you feel shit about yourself, then you’re on the wrong side of inspiration, lady. It’s time to unfollow them.

In the same vein, if you hang around toxic people who are constantly negative and make you feel like shit, let them go. As a rule, anything that doesn’t make you feel good needs to GO! It is important to focus on your clients, your work and your dreams – everything else ain’t your business.

All the love,
Anna xo

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