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The School That Swiped the Dodge Logo, and Other Design Copycats

Are there no more good ideas out there? A rash of copycat designs makes it seem like the muses have been drained dry.


Design is a tricky game—it's part art after all; a single project can be a tangled mess of influences, some clear, some not so clear. And then there are the head-slappers. Like Lake Mary High School in Florida, recently busted for using the Dodge logo as their own [Ed. note: Full disclosure, this was my high-school's rival growing up, though my mom actually worked there briefly as a teacher. Go Seminoles!]. NPR got the school's principal on the phone, caught red-handed, and he tried to play the whole thing off. He claimed when he first got the call from a Chrysler rep threatening to sue unless he got rid of the logo, he thought it was a joke until he "googled his phone number." Apparently, the school attempted to negotiate a licensing agreement, but Chrysler refused.

Llotja de Lleida

La Llotja de Lleida, a convention center in Lleida, Spain (left) that opened last month was designed by Mecanoo Architects from Delft. So you'd think they'd have known better than to propose a pretty clear riff on the 50-year-old Delft Technical University Auditorium by Van der Broek and Bakema. Mecanoo says it wasn't a "direct inspiration."—their building in Lleida is more like a "recreation of the past."

Corbusier Petit Chair

Think you're a design rock star? Guess the fake. Target is selling what they call a "Le Corbusier Petit Chair"—but what designers know as the iconic LC2. Cassina is the only company authorized to produce Le Corbusier's furniture and, as the Fondation Le Corbusier (and plenty of Cassina ads) makes painfully obvious, "all pieces of furniture which do not bear the logotype Cassina, the signature of Le Corbusier and the production number are counterfeits."

(Oh, the fake? On the left.)

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  • Nathan McCants

    I'm a fan of the UAB Blazers (Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham), and I know of two schools that have borrowed or outright copied from its dragon head logo( One is Paris [TX] Junior College: ( The other is East Akron High School in Ohio; The 'East Orientals' once used a helmet logo that was a near exact copy (

    One small irony associated with the borrowing? UAB's 'blazing dragon' logos were originally destined to be a part of the rejected re-branding of the NBA's New Jersey Nets in 1994. After plans to re-name the team the "Swamp Dragons" were dropped, the university worked with the hired design firm to adopt some of the rejected logos as their own.

  • charlie payne

    My wife grew up in Fisher, Il; (1981 pop of 1,251; graduating class of '81 with 43) Their school nickname is the Bunnies (really!). It's changed now, but back then they used the Playboy logo, with a very slight moderation of one ear placement. My wife says that somewhere there's a letter from Hef himself giving permission to use it. Apparently, a different time; a different place.

  • Jim Mathis

    Great story! A local South Dakota high school was sued last year for using a college logo.
    The part about the LC2 chair reminds me of a fake George Nelson designed Ball clock on sale. I wrote about it here:

  • Andra Rahaman

    High schools must think they can "borrow" professional images without penalty, since they are public entities and therefore non-profit. However, this is intellectual property and therefore cannot be used without penalty. An example: Philadelphia Eagles, a national football league team, has a distinct image ( At least three high schools appear to have adopted this image and changed only the tiniest of details, e.g. color:
    - El Dorado H.S. “Home of the Eagles”

    Omaha Central H.S. - Nebraska

    Bohemia Manor H.S.


  • Marie Goltara

    When I saw this headline, I knew it was about my alma mater. Pretty embarrassing, but it was still a great high school! Enjoyed reading your article! :)