Today Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and some other boldfaced political names got together to launch "No Labels," an organization calling for a new era of non-partisan political change. The non-profit, according to Politics Daily, plans to "endorse and perhaps help finance candidates in party primaries but not in national elections." Their slogan is "No Labels. Not Left. Not Right. Forward." But considering how closely the group's logo/design (Twitter!) resembles the work of graphic designer Thomas Porostocky, they might want to change the name to No Copyright. [Update: The No Labels designer says it's just a coincidence that he and Porostocky must have used the same clip art file...but Porostocky tells us his animals are original. More below. Update 2: Now the No Labels designer admits the animals are too similar!]
Porostocky's artwork, which also happens to be about expanding the two-party system, was chosen by Milton Glaser for a 2005 exhibit called "Design of Dissent," which was later published in book form. It was also featured in Good magazine, and is used by More Party Animals, an "apolitically-political idea born out of a heartfelt disenchantment with the status quo." As you can see, the designs look pretty similar, and Porostocky tells us he was never contacted about No Labels:
I just found about this a few minutes ago, so to be honest, I'm still a little stunned at the blatant plagiarism. I hadn't been aware of No Labels prior to today, so needless to say they have definitely not reached out in any way. Considering the names they have on their speaker list (Bloomberg, Gillibrand et al), this clearly isn't just a simple mom and pop operation, so there really is no excuse for this. There are plenty of politically aware artists out there who they could've reached out to in a legitimate (and well, legal) fashion to create something original. There was no need to make a trip down to the Canal Street of ideas.
We're waiting for a comment from No Labels' publicist, but we've got a feeling somebody over there is gonna have No Job after this.
UPDATE: Dave Warren, the designer who created the work for No Labels, sent us a statement (same as the one he gave Politico) and he chalks it up to a clip art coincidence:
FLY Communications created the animals for No Labels, we did not steal them. But we did start, like almost every ad agency these days, with clip art. In this case royalty free clip art available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. Then we altered, colored, changed and molded the shapes into ones we liked. We did not see, use, or steal any other work. Since so many other firms have access to these same public files - and their are millions of these files - they can do the same thing we did. So if there are similar treatments as ours it only means they were dipping in the same file. Our original intention was to parody the classic red, white and blue donkey and elephant party designs that have been around for decades. So we really thought about how cool it would be to have a similarly colored buffalo, or snail, or pelican. It seems our thought process was similar to this other designer. And it is very apparent that we arrived at the same place conceptually as well as technically. In our designs, we show the animals both separately and together. Another crazy similarity. Ugh.
However, Porostocky tells us he did not use clip art—his animals were original. It's also remarkable coincidence that many of the animals are in the exact same place—we took the No Labels t-shirt and overlaid Porostocky's Party Animals over it—check it out yourself. We asked Warren if he could direct us to the clip art he used; he said his team was in the process of locating it.
Warren also spoke to City Room, "I do my own thinking, man. Feel free to come to one of my classes at Parsons... I have a long and storied history on Madison Avenue. I’m not stupid enough to steal anybody’s work; I have too much faith to come up with my own ideas," and said of Porostocky, "Tell the other guy to Google my name."
Update 9:58 p.m.: We just spoke to Warren, who now feels "terrible." He agrees that More Party Animals and No Labels' animals are "too close" in design. Warren, who is the creative director at Fly, explained that after they worked on the concept of alternate animals in red and blue, another designer was tasked to work on it and came up with the above.
The designer came back with what we see above. Cut to today: When Warren asked him where he got the animals, the designer said it was clip art. One possibility is that Porostocky's More Party Animals' art was appropriated by a clip art source without credit, and that's how No Labels' design team came across it. Warren does now believe that the original source art was Porostocky's but thinks his designer used clip art outlines. Warren added that the similarities were troubling and the last thing he wants to do is to be stealing art—or stealing from something that was stolen. So the mystery continues, until the clip art emerges.
FWIW, if you do a Google Image search for "political party animals"—the first two images are More Party Animals.