Archive for October, 2011

Some recent mentions of Infobytes on Twitter

Well yesterday’s post about the plagiarizing of my design for the Squaw Valley website caused quite a stir. The evidence against Infobytes completely damning. And the ski industry has responded loudly and clearly that this kind of behavior is immoral and will not be tolerated.

Initially, I decided not to go public until I heard Brighton’s side of the story. As I suspected, they had offered Infobytes several examples of sites they liked, just for direction and inspiration. Infobytes, their digital agency then decided to poorly copy, rather than borrow and improve upon the original. I mean, why bother doing all that work?

Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

Once I decided to share this experience, the outpouring of support from ski industry and design colleagues was swift and unanimous. I’ve received hundreds of @replies in support of the integrity of design and condemning plagiarism on the web. Meanwhile, the full social media wrath of sympathetic marketers and designers has been brought upon Infobytes. Their website traffic has most likely had a record spike, their inboxes are full of critical emails, and the owners LinkedIn profile was even published via Twitter. I almost feel bad about it. Almost. I  actually had to persuade some savvy users NOT to share and abuse her personal Twitter account. One follower even said he was submitting the story to major news outlets, which may be a bit of a stretch but it’s cool anyway.

The moral indignation designers and ski industry marketers feel comes from the understanding that we all work very hard with limited resources. People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

The Squaw site was actually turned around in about 2 months, beginning to end. This would not have been possible without the hard work of Nathan Kendall at Squaw Valley, Chris Petty in Park City and myself. Lots of long days and nights went into that site, as with any project. We even offered 4 original concepts initially, each one offering different functionality and inspired by the work of other designers, without copying. So for another designer to sell pass that work off upon an unsuspecting client (a direct competitor no less!) is appalling.

People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

I think the lesson here is pretty clear. Don’t steal design. Don’t pass off other people’s hard work as your own. And don’t fuck with people who choose to race down frozen mountains and jump of cliffs. Your weaknesses will be exposed.

Thanks to all my colleagues and friends for their support.

A tweet by Jeffrey Zeldman

Affirmation from my web design idol, Jeffrey Zeldman

Great comment from my accountant!

Great comment from my accountant!

Hackjob: My Work Gets Plagiarized!

My work was recently poached by the good folks at Infobytes in Salt Lake City. That’s the nicest way to say it. Their recent “design” for Brighton Resort is more than inspired by my 2010 design for Squaw Valley USA. It’s a blatant ripoff. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then consider me highly flattered.

My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

I’ve spoken to Brighton, and I believe them when they say they were completely unaware of any copying or wrong-doing. It seems they listed Squaw.com along with several other sites they liked to give Infobytes an idea of their tastes and functionality they liked. I ask for the same thing when starting a project, but I try to come back with something unique, and hopefully better. Instead, Infobytes downloaded the site, the CSS, the markup, the graphics and proceded to make small hackish adjustments accordingly. So I think the real victim here is Brighton, who spent their entire summer and lots of money on something that’s plagiarized.

Before I get into the particulars, let me admit that there are only so many ideas out there, and some overlap is bound to happen. As one friend pointed out to me, my Squaw design looks a lot like Apple.com so maybe I’m to blame as well. But the ski industry is a small, interconnected place where everyone knows each other and takes great pride in competition as well as camaraderie. So it was no surprise when many of my colleagues jumped all over this blatant forgery before I even had seen it. Slopefillers did a great job of documenting the similarities within hours of its launch, in their post Ski Resort Websites: 7 Before & Afters from 2011′s New Designs.

As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

But to say that they’re similar is an understatement. With the exception of Infobytes’ hackish rendering, they’re cut from the same mould altogether.

  • The hero images are completely the same dimensions, although Infobytes hasn’t cropped them to center the subject within the allotted space. They’re also embedded as background images using the same class names as Squaw.com.
  • The hero images are also served using the same php script which was developed by Chris Petty specifically for Squaw.
  • The ghosted scenic images in the background are treated using the same layer blending modes, the same opacity, and the same gradient masks as mine.
  • The dimensional shadows in the footer are blurred and warped to the exact same specification, creating a lifted corner effect. That’s no accident!
  • The navigation bar has the same height, width, gradient, beveling treatment, dividers and type treatment. IN FACT, if you were to examine the code (at the time of this blog post) you’d even see that the navigation and headers all call for Futura Bold, which we embedded on Squaw.com using @font-face. Brighton doesn’t use Futura, but my code is still there.
  • The navigation menus use the same columnar structure, the same unordered list styling, the same background images dividing navigation from promotional content.
  • The content level pages use the same background image technique with the same fade-out heights and same opacity, the same content overlay design, and the same sidebar design although in reverse.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I spoke to the designer responsible for this hack job at Infobytes and she had no idea what to say. I asked if she thought no one would notice. She said, well the client sent me a list of sites they liked and I just “took it from there”. I said I usually get a list of preferred sites from my clients too but I don’t copy them. It’s just to get a sense of their personal taste. By the end of the call, she said she’d change everything right away. I reminded her that that’s not her call and that she should consult with her client and own up to what she’d done. So THAT was a fun conversation.

Squaw is aware of the situation and they had the same reaction I did. IE: “WOW, that’s blatant!” But with their recent changes, they may have bigger fish to fry at the moment. The bottom line is that Brighton and Squaw will work this out amicably, without a doubt.