Invitation Advisor: Custom Invitations Really Does Mean Custom – Not Copied

November 3, 2011 § 1 Comment


If you are a newly engaged couple out there considering custom invitations, then this post is for you…

I’ve blogged before about how the word “custom” gets thrown around a lot in the stationery world, and frankly outright misused quite frequently. Let’s get it straight – custom (or bespoke for our Brit & Aussie friends) invitations are designed and created specifically for you. While they may be inspired by another design, the overall design and details are specific to you as a couple. A designer taking something they’ve done previously and changing the wording and colours – not custom (customized though). Picking invitations out of a album – not custom.

And you know what else isn’t custom? Finding an invitation you like online and then bringing it to a designer and asking them for exactly the same thing. That’s not custom, it’s copied, and in our world it’s just not cool.

I read a post this week on The Mad Stationer’s stationery/wedding industry blog, and it made me think about all those times that as designers we are asked to copy someone else’s work, and although I’ve talked about it a number of times in little bits and pieces on the blog, I wanted to dedicate a post completely to discussing exactly that situation and what is so wrong with it.

My question always is, “if you love this invitation so much, why don’t you go to the original designer?”. The answer can be a number of things: the client wasn’t sure where the image was from (a big issue these days, especially with the lack of credit stationery often receives on blogs), they didn’t want to deal with someone online, they didn’t want to pay what the designer was asking etc. While all of these have some merit, they don’t excuse the idea that you could come to a designer (like me) and ask them to straight up copy the same design. And no, asking me to make it purple instead of green, or just take away the extra layers, or make the text bigger does not constitute a brand new design.

Why is it such a big deal?

Well, outside of the whole copyright, intellectual property, ethics thing – it just feels wrong.

As a designer, one of the biggest compliments I can hear is how different or unique my designs are. So you can imagine that if someone comes to me asking me outright to copy a design that someone else did, it’s actually a bit insulting. I would hope that most of my clients come to me (over one of the other local designers) based on my work – not just the quality, but the style. Bringing me an invite and asking me to copy it sort of destroys that hope. It means you think I’m just really good at reproducing things, but you have no respect for what I’m actually good at – putting *you* on paper. So yes, ego is part of what upsets me about this kind of situation.

But what’s more upsetting is that as a designer myself, I know what goes into every design I put out there – the hours of work, of studying inspiration items, of talking with clients etc. I would never dream of taking advantage of one of my colleagues by basically stealing their hard work and pimping it out to make a profit. I would hope that as a client you wouldn’t *want* to work with a designer who thought that was ok. After all, if they are willing to rip-off a “competitor”, who says they won’t do the same to you.

To be honest, I’ve had a few clients do this to me over the years, and while I don’t judge the clients themselves (after all, not everyone really stops to think about what they are doing by asking you to copy something), it just makes me sad to have to fight so hard to get them to agree to let me design something I think they will love even more, because its “theirs”. Some clients are actually irate that I *won’t* copy a design. And then I’m sure those clients just go to the next designer and the next designer until the find someone who will. And the sad fact is that they *will* find someone who will do it – I just think they don’t deserve to be called a designer.

But, I still hold out hope.

A few weeks ago a potential client sent me an email with their inspiration invite. I recognized it immediately as the work of another designer I know personally. I replied to the client that if they wanted something that had the same feeling etc. I could come up with a design inspired by the one they loved, but if they wanted that exact invite, I’d be happy to give them the designer’s info.

The client replied that she was just unsure about ordering online, but she would love to have the info of the original designer, and that if it didn’t work out she would come back to me. She also added, “I have some friends that are getting married, I will recommend you – your honesty has scored huge points with me.”. Wow, wasn’t expecting that at all, but it really made me feel good that she recognized why I wouldn’t copy it – that it’s about integrity, not ego. She is now getting her invites from the original designer and everyone is happy. There is no amount of money she could have paid me to recreate that invite that could have ever made me feel as good as I feel about that situation now.

Yes, I know, the harsh reality remains that copying is going on out there every day, whether it’s invitations or any number of other items. Still, the argument that “other people are doing it”, isn’t a valid reason to do it yourself.

If it were, I’d just simply change my slogan to “Hip Ink Invitations – Everyone Else Is Doing It”.

Hmmm….no, nevermind.



§ One Response to Invitation Advisor: Custom Invitations Really Does Mean Custom – Not Copied

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