Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where would you draw the line?

As most freelancers, I work hard for a living. Helveticons took me over 600 hours to create, so I can't even begin to describe what I felt when the first purchase came through. Standing on your own feet makes you evaluate what to spend your hours on.

At the time I was working on Helveticons Extras, more iconsets in the same category started to arrive. I've always felt good about competition since it makes you work even harder on your own goals. The competition also seemed to aim for a different market segment than I did.

Shortly after releasing Helveticons Extras, one of the rivaling icon sets also released their second edition. I found this through some users on twitter comparing my iconset to his and pointing out some obvious similarities.

Strangely enough I had never really reflected about the similarities between the icon sets, but this made me look into it. So, I purchased these icon sets and made a table which compares Helveticons and Vital Vector. The result was rather disappointing, I felt almost breathless while looking at the comparison.

The reason I'm writing this and showing the comparison for public display is that I simply cannot tolerate anyone taking my icons and then re-selling them at a lower price. I have no sacks of gold for lawyers, nor time for such a lengthy process, but this clearly is a breach of my license agreement.

Here's a link to the comparison table that shows a side by side (and fill) comparison between the sets.
(updated 12:00 / 03-27-2010 with 10 more icon comparisons now a total of 80 icons)


Brad Hopkins said...

This type of behavior seems to be more prevalent but I suspect we're just getting better at detecting / being notified about it as we become more connected through social networks.

How do you deal with this without "sacks of gold for lawyers"? We all know how we'd like to deal with it!

Very frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I could never imagine Michael Flarup as a thief ...

I've lost all respect towards him, I hope he learns his lesson sooner or later.

Good luck on getting back what was yours!

Kristoffer said...

I cant believe how just copied the vector source from Helveticons. While looking at the full comparison it seems that Michael Flarup (@flaurp) has thing for 2pt outlines.

Larkef said...


You wrote a really good post about this problem. Well done. Also, great comparison list, it really shows that there is not way there are just 'some accidental similarities". Did you contact the author of the Vital Vector set?

Migue Sabel said...

The saddest part is that somebody thinks that everybody else in the world is stupid enough not to realize.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, but as I have thought this many times, I would love to see a apple icon set row in the comparison and see how get's jolted out.

David said...

Does it really matter?

Feels like they both had a hint of apple, and comparing is like saying green or red apples.

Roy said...

This is stealing. The icons are practically the same.

But once I read a Tweet from you claiming that iTunes 9 was using your Home-icon. But that is not true. Before Helveticons was released, the Google Android Guidelines were already online:

Exactly the same Home-icon.

Great minds think alike, maybe? :)

Johan Nordberg said...

Lost all my respect for Michael Flarup, how did he think he would get away with selling helveticons with an added outline?

One begins to wonder how much of Michael Flarup's work is actually his..

Anonymous said...

Wow, these are such obvious rips I don't even know where to start. How can someone be so brazen (and stupid) to think people wouldn't find out?

This Flarup guy needs outed as a fraud, and by the looks of his smug attitude in response to this, he definitely needs it.

Unknown said...

Looks like you got Arialed. Good luck with your struggle.

Anonymous said...

Many of them are very similar, but many are indeed from the same source. I can see lots of Apple's style icons in there. So Basically both stole from Apple and others.

Anonymous said...

On further inspection, it looks like the icons weren't the only things Michael Flarup stole from you.


Anonymous said...

That logo is from here:
Don't think it's Michael's.

Anonymous said...

That is Michael Flarup's last place of employment. He claimed to have made that logo. It's in his portfolio.

Anonymous said...

You mean all of these copied from Max?

Anonymous said...

Google: optical illusion impossible ring
Those existed long before Max actually did the icons.
So both inspired from those.

Anonymous said...

yeah okay which one of you is Michael himself doing damage control? :)

Dare to do an overlay?

Johan said...

What I don't get is how Michael Flarup thinks the problem is solved just by mailing Maximilian? He's still ripped him off, made money on Max's icons and are now trying to wipe off this confrontation with arguments like "same dingbats" and "similar inspiration". Then I see stuff like this:

I don't even know what to say anymore..

I've been in contact with Max and he's chosen to take this day off which I fully understand. What Max chooses to do from here I don't know – but the fact that Michael Flarup stole a large part of his icons and then sold them isn't something anyone should treat as an "accident". I mean, he's even taking a stab at Helveticons on his introduction post of Vital Vector ( with words like "industry snobbery" and "overpriced icon sets". How Max prices his icons and targets audiences is his choicee alone.

Sorry if this is getting close to personal, but it's hard to keep feelings out of this one.

Unknown said...

well writen, instructive post

Anonymous said...

Wow, is Michael Flarup an anagram for Carlos Mencia or something? These are shameless rips. I got a hearty chuckle out of his public apology though - - where he calls himself an "integral part of the design community".

What a blowhard. This original creator of these works should put the pins to this guy. You'd be doing a disservice to honest designers out there if you didn't.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call Michaels blogpost an apology. He blames his rips on similarities and same inspiration - that is not an apology. What I would like to see a explanation on why 80 icons are almost identical.

I think he could save his reputation by just admitting he did something very very wrong and it won't happen again.

Best of luck to him!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately he has a lot of apologists and fans out there who won't care in the slightest about any of this. He's probably betting on it, actually. In the end though, nothing will come of it and people like him will continue to steal and profit off of the backs of other honest designers.

Shame on him.

Michael Flarup said...

Hi Max (& anyone else reading this)

All resemblance between the sets have been pulled, here's my public apology and my take:

I've sent you the new set Max, if you still think your work is being infringed on please get back to me.

Michael Flarup

Anonymous said...

There might be coincidence of making something similar to other designer's work but 80 icons is way to much. I am not buying Flarup story.

Anonymous said...

Michael Flarup is a thief who rips off other people's hard work. It's not libel if it's true. He deserves to have his reputation ruined.

Kim said...

Thats not an apology good enough Michael!

Explain hos 80 of his icons ended up in your set!

Anonymous said...

You know, all designers there should put some money in a fund to sue that Flarup son of a bitch for all he's worth.

He clearly stole the icon sets and even sold them for his personal profit.

DO NOT ACCEPT THIS "APOLOGY" I urge Max to create a fund through which all designers can rape this Flarup guy and cleanup the industry.

If this happened to Max, it will happen to YOU. Someone should create a fund to help Max NOW.

Anonymous said...

You know, all designers there should put some money in a fund to sue that Flarup son of a bitch for all he's worth.

He clearly stole the icon sets and even sold them for his personal profit.

DO NOT ACCEPT THIS "APOLOGY" I urge Max to create a fund through which all designers can rape this Flarup guy and cleanup the industry.

If this happened to Max, it will happen to YOU. Someone should create a fund to help Max NOW.

Anonymous said...

Fuck me, does this guy create ANYTHING that's his own?

He's using Louie Mantia's wallpaper for his background in his blog post.

Mantia -
Flarup -

Anonymous said...

Guys, do you think Jay Leno knows about this!!??

Anonymous said...

When I first saw Helveticons I thought... wow, I've seen some of these before. And a google image search and a browse through my dingbat font collection confirmed it.

And there is no doubt that the authors of Helveticons haven't browsed sets from competing authors to get icon ideas to add to their own collection.

So before everyone lynches Michael Flarup consider that some of these icons are not original works and have been pulled from public domain sources or modified just enough to raise the possibility of being original works.

This should not have been a trial by twitter because most people aren't informed enough to know when something is an original work and when it's a derivative. Sorry to offend, but that's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Here you go! Look familiar?

Anonymous said...

Uhh that's a pretty big stretch. Nobody said Helveticons invented glyphs, but Flarup made 1:1 copies of the ones he did create.

You're blind if you can't see that. The dude is a hack and all of his little nuthuggers coming to defend him aren't any better.

Lars said...

Really interesting to see what Flarups next step will be... Apology or continue to hide behind lame excuses and make people upset and angry?

LE said...

Vital Vector is a form of flattery of Helveticons. That's how I'm going to look at it.

Love you <3

Jeff said...

We've written a feature on this story for the Design Wall of Shame:

tsevis said...

It's really sad when someone is doing this. Especially when people are feeling so hopeless to just steal someone else's work. I cannot understand why they just don't try to build upon. To create something better...
If it makes you feel better you can read what another guy did with a work of mine. He just took it and signed it. Even now it's still online on CMYK network.

What can I say? Some people are so wrong that you don't even have to do anything with it. Feel good, smile and keep on designing.


Jon said...

Michael Flarup should be ashamed!! And give a better apology.

A bit curious what Maximilian think about all the drama and what his next step is.

Go team Helveticons!

Jeezbo said...

I also lost all my respect for Michael Flarup.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure which is worse... Flarup with his helveticons plagiarism or have to watch how others use icons for free ?

My deepest condolences!

Anonymous said...

So how was the matter resolved (was it)?

Michael Flarup just buried the issue and kept his loyal following. His store is gone and so are his icons.
What I want to know, though, is if I'm the only one outraged by the fact that he denied copying Helveticons directly, admitting to tracing existing icon sets (some of which are even free).

Whether or not he traced Max's helveticons we are sure he traced other people's work and sold it. This is unaccetable.

Max, did you tace existing sets to create some of your icons?

Im just trying to get the facts straight here and clearly Mr. Flarup is guilty of theft.

How did you guys settle the issue?

Anonymous said...

Michael Flarup thief and hack designer robocat iphone apps thief hack theft Michael Flarup hack designer thief robocat apps Michael Flarup thief robocat apps hack designer

Anonymous said...

Every time I see work from Michael Flarup pop up on Dribbble, or tweets about a new iOS app he's releasing, I can't help but feel a little disgusted. I absolutely hate the way he was able to get away with the theft of work and very few people seemed to have a problem. The issue is almost forgotten now, but I'll never forget.

If he had handled the situation in a better way, it may not be such a big issue for me now, but he effectively ignored it & carried on hoping it'd go away, which it (pretty much) has. He got lucky, but it's unfair in so many ways. I hope he feels guilty.

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