Borrowing designs = confirmed

Oregon State University College of Engineering web site screenshot
The OSU College of Engineering website design was “borrowed” from the Virginia Tech homepage. I received confirmation from a reliable source that the OSU COE site was designed by a student designer who used the VT site for design inspiration. Apparently, VT was made aware of the COE site design and was “not happy” about it.

I emailed the COE’s webmaster email and asked if they were aware of the site design similarities. I did not receive a response. However, a quick check of my web statistics showed a 54 second visit (referred from a Google Search for my name) from “” It turns out that that is the host name for Gregg Kleiner’s computer at OSU. Gregg is the Director of Marketing & Communications for the OSU College of Engineering.

7 thoughts on “Borrowing designs = confirmed”

  1. What does it mean that it seems likely that the person who designed the COE webpage is almost certainly going to suffer punitive consequences as a result of this?

    Could it work out differently?

  2. According to another commenter, the designer has already graduated from OSU. It seems to me that leaving a site design online that is known to be a close-copy of another is something that the marketing folks at the COE should address. The “teachable moment” opportunity for the student and the administrative staff appears to have passed…

  3. So it may or may not be too late for the departed designer to learn anything, but certainly not for future student designers or COE?

    At least that’s my hope =)

  4. Seth Godin had an interesting post on website design a while ago in which he actually encouraged site developers to draw inspiration from existing sites. An excerpt:

    “I’m going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create an original design. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there’s one that you can start with? If your organization can’t find a website that you all agree can serve as a model, you need to stop right now and find a new job.

    Not a site to rip-off, but an inspiration. Fonts and colors and layout. The line spacing. The interactions. Why not? Your car isn’t unique, and your house might not be either. If you’ve got a site that sells 42 kinds of wrapping paper, why not start by finding a successful site that sells… I don’t know, shoes or yo-yo’s… something that both appeals to your target audience and has been tested and tweaked and works.

    No, don’t pick a competitor. That will get you busted. Pick a reasonably small but successful site in a totally different line of work. Say to your designer: “That’s our starting point. Don’t change any important design element without asking me first. Now, pull in our products, our logo and our company color scheme and let’s take a look at it.”

  5. Higher ed has always been a ‘beg, borrow, and steal’ kind of industry. If you look at our admissions page and the WSU homepage, the language used is identical. Their financial aid page was also eerily similar to our admissions homepage. Go to a college fair and pick up a random sample of publications. You’ll see some very similar. In fact, our recruit (fair) brochure was copied in size, shape, and layout by UO, WOU, and EOU. Isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

    In higher ed, this is no big deal.

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