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Dealing With Your Mistakes

As designers, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes are minor, some are major. Some of them are accidental, and some are the direct results of our poor decisions and actions. Well, I recently made a very big mistake.

Yesterday, I received a very stern email from Peter Boyd of PaperStreet Web Design1. He informed me that the free PSD template that I was offering as a free download has violated copyright laws. He mentioned that it was a direct copy of ClarkSkatoff.com2, a website that they designed for their client.

I was shocked!

Sometime ago, I was very busy with freelance work and I needed help. I found someone on Craigslist who had pretty low rates and who seemed to know much about web design based on our conversation. I immediately hired him as a freelancer.

Mistake #1
I didn’t even check to see his portfolio or his website. I was still new to freelancing at the time. We did a couple of projects together and all was fine.

One day, I was asked by a friend to design a website. I went to this individual again and hired him to design this site for me and I would do the coding. He came back to me with a very nice design. I was impressed. The site looked great. I presented it to the client, but unfortunately, he didn’t really like it. Fast forward a few months forward and I stopped working with this freelancer as I found out that a site that he designed for me was copied.

Mistake #2
The other day, while looking for something to give as a freebie for Design Informer, I found that website that he designed that didn’t make it. I decided to offer this as a free download.

Mistake #3
Well, turns out that website was copied from PaperStreet’s portfolio. Not only was it copied, but it was copied from a lawyer’s website designed by a law firm design company. I can definitely get sued.

When I found out, I immediately deleted the template post and emailed all of the commenters about the mistake that I made. I then notified Peter of the steps that I took to rectify the situation.

Website Rip-Off

Although I cannot go back in time to change my mistakes, I did my best to fix the situation. It’s just too bad that Peter already blogged about the incident.

I don’t blame him, I would have done the same thing. By the way, he was very respectful in his emails to me and he handled the situation perfectly.

Here are some thoughts about dealing with your mistakes: Link

  • Admit that you messed up. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Don’t try to argue or lie. Just be transparent.
  • Do all you can to right the situation. If it means having to email all of your readers and let them know that you messed up, then do it. Ask the person who you have wronged what you can do to make things right.
  • Learn how to apologize. Say sorry! That word goes a long way.
  • Be polite and respectful. Most likely, after you have wronged someone, they will be pretty mad. There is an old Proverb that says,

    "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

  • Realize that while you can’t go back and change the past, you can learn from your mistakes and move on.

What horror stories do you have as a freelancer or blogger? What are some mistakes that you have made and how did you fix it? Let everyone know by leaving a comment below. Oh, and it would be a big mistake if you don’t follow Design Informer on Twitter3 and submit to our RSS feed4.

Footnotes Link

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    John (Human3rror)

    November 25, 2009 11:41 am

    WTG dude. I’m glad you took my advice; this only reflects GOOD for you!

    Have a great rest of the week! Only up from here!


  2. 2

    Our designs are regularly stolen (at least once a quarter). I blog about each, as I find that our blog gets people attention quickly. Therefore people correct their infringement faster than with just a stern email.

    Note that the web site is So you may want to correct your post.

    Thank you for removing the infringement promptly. You are correct in that you have to verify all contract work, or it can end up causing issues.


  3. 3

    You shouldn’t get sewed, that fake designer should!

  4. 4

    Jad, you handled this pretty well. It’s frustrating that some designers are no-talent hacks and do not care for their work. They only care about the money, and not integrity and creativity. As long as they pull off stunts like this, they will not grow and it will be their undoing. At least you know better next time :)

  5. 5

    Once, instead of using a template for an article, I used the file from an old article, stripped it out, and inserted the new article’s copy. … Except I hadn’t stripped out the first paragraph – I had intended on using it to format the drop cap for the new first paragraph. So the article started with a wrong paragraph, it was not caught at proofreading, and the magazine printed with the mistake.

    I was mortified and the best I could do was admit to the mistake when called out on it, humbly apologize to my client, express how much I appreciated his business, and gave him 200% effort on the project I was in the midst of working on for him. He was very nice about it – said that bigger mistakes had been made and he continues to offer me work. I continue to put in 200% effort for him for being so gracious.

  6. 6

    It happens. You get screwed and there’s not much you can do about it. However, an update on their blog post in reply to this post would be pretty classy and help spread the word about this situation which a lot of people forget to think about.

  7. 7

    @Peter – Just fixed that error. Thanks!

    @Eli Prenten – No one’s getting sued. I already got things right. :)

    @Acuity Designs – Thanks! Someone gave me some good advice about this.

    @nOeL – I agree! That is why I said, “Learn from your mistakes.” I will definitely be a lot more careful next time.

    @Colleen – Thanks for sharing your story with us. Glad you were able to keep the client. :)

    @Ian – Yes, Peter did mention that they will probably do an update next week. He has handled everything well so far.

    @Deja – But foolishness on my part as well for not having enough discernment.

  8. 8

    @John – Thanks for the great advice. It was very helpful!

  9. 9

    Oohhh… surrreee… blame it on Craigslist.


  10. 11

    @Nick – :) I actually like Craigslist, just have to be more careful!

  11. 12

    I read in some blog, that taking inspiration from a site isn’t bad.

    Is it fully wrong to replicate a site with changes in images and color, along with adding some of your stuff, life sidebars etc. ???


  12. 13

    @idrish – Well, I’m not sure if it is, but I suggest not doing it. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

  13. 14

    “your version” looks a lot better. One thing I do not get about stealing is that its design. Seriously, about the only thing you copied is the brown background and the pattern thing. That is stupid annoying! Your layout looks 10x better. Along the life of a graphic designer, someone is bound to copy someone else’s design. Whether by accident or on purpose its bound to happen. Especially small little stuff like patterns. If I like something on somebody’s website, I am totally going to use it. Sure enough when my site is up I am going to get sued by 20 people.

  14. 16

    Mikael Cubillan

    December 2, 2009 5:16 am

    @ jad I think your design I different, only the colors are the same… @idrish is correct,
    inspiration is not a crime.

  15. 18

    Looks like you handled an unfortunate situation in a graceful and professional manner.

    Your tips on ‘dealing with your mistakes’ are great. Definitely something to remind myself of next time I step in something that smells a bit funny.

  16. 20

    These sites are definitely similar. Not exactly, but too close. A couple changes, and it’s a different site. That’s a good thing I think, that you can do a tweak or two and make it fresh. Nobody has a copyright on where your divs and boxes are, but you gotta change up colors, backgrounds, and text styles. Interesting that your craigslist designer was able to get it as different as that, but not a few steps further to originality. Very curious.

    Anytime you have a problem or mistake, confronting it head-on is the way. Why not? It’s the top of the to-do list to stay respectable. I try not to live too long in “stupid stupid stupid” mode after my many mistakes because it’s never that useful past that point where you’re motivated to take action. Nice site!

    • 21

      I agree with you. A little more tweaking and it would have definitely been a different site.

      I try not to live too long in “stupid stupid stupid” mode after my many mistakes because it’s never that useful past that point where you’re motivated to take action. Nice site!

      I agree. Moving on now! :arrow:

  17. 22

    This is a good piece on a topic a lot of us wish not talk about. I made this one of my three links of the day on my daily design blog:


  18. 24

    Too bad, the file you were offering actually looks better than the law design firm’s design.

  19. 25

    You’re right. I’ve had clients come up to me before and told me to copy a particular design. That is a hard situation, but I’m always able to convince them to go with an original design.

  20. 26

    I blogged about the incident because the record needed to be set straight. You were profiting from our design and building your reputation on our work.


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