Knocked Off Again

Knockoff.  Webster’s definition reads as “a cheap of inferior copy of something”.  A bit similar to “knock down” and “knockout” but to be sure I refer to plagiarized, and again by a big box store with the victim being an Amerock hardware design.

Rolling into the Box one evening looking for blue painter’s tape and some CFLs, I passed this forlorn little vanity ensemble:

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The unit’s cup pull is as close to my Amerock Manor pull as one can get, only not as wide.

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Here is Amerock’s official view of the Manor pull – model number BP26130 – for some reason shown from the bottom:

amerock-bp26130g10-lg

I designed this piece of hardware way back in 2003-2004, while living in Washington DC.  I used to wander the majestic avenues looking for architectural inspiration.  In this case, I was thinking of some details I liked in Daniel Burnham’s Union Station.  I’ve blogged about Union Station before I think … ah yes, here is a picture of the entrance vestibule:

Detail of Union Station in Washington DC

When I started with Amerock in late 2003, they were thick in the transition from a domestic manufacturing company to a run-of-the-mill importing brand.  Needing new designs to be made in China and appeal to the mass market, I whipped up some collections that would have timeless appeal and work with a myriad of cabinet and interior styles.  Manor was actually the first design I did for them.  In fact, the Manor knob was my very first design, penned in late 2003:

amerock-manor-square-knob

As I have stated before, I don’t mind so much to be knocked off as I can just design another knob or handle very quickly.  In this case I’m actually a bit proud to think a 13 year design still holds up enough to be copied so blatantly.  My goal of “timeless appeal” seems to have been met.

While I will continue using the world’s architectural monuments for inspiration – as any good artist should – some will simply copy other’s designs.  I don’t suppose there are great old buildings and fascinating streets to wander out in the Big Box corporate park, but that should not be an excuse for failing to come up with an original design.

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Knock Offs

I was recently walking a “big box store” – nameless for now – and noticed some private label cabinet hardware that carried an uncanny similarity to a design I did for Amerock a few years ago.  This doesn’t bother me as this sort of thing happens all time.  You know what they say about imitation and flattery.

Here are the designs at the ‘Box:

Here are my designs for Amerock, designed around 2007:

Amerock HandleAmerock Knob

My designs have a subtle curve the ‘Box models lack, but looking at the knob in particular I think we can say my designs have undoubtedly provided the inspiration for these retail pieces.

Discussing plagiarism in design is a important topic and a little too deep for me to tackle today.  In this case Amerock is not sold in this particular store; the product manager probably wanted to have something similar to my design, but could not find it in their manufacturer’s catalog.  In today’s product development environment, it’s simply a matter of sending a drawing (or “inspirational sample”) to your Far East factory and ordering the minimum quantity to have something very close in your store.

Another situation I have been meaning to post about is what happens to a design when it gets passed over for launch, but then mysteriously shows up in somebody else’s product lineup.  This happened with a mid-century-inspired bow handle I did back in the mid 2000’s.  Here is my design:

Bow Handle 2007

You are looking at a die cast and chrome plated “actual handle”, and two development prototypes.  At some point I changed the design from the awful 3-banded idea to this simple and frankly, “familiar” bow handle design that would have been a typical design in the 1930-50’s.  Our product team rejected the design in the end however, and we went ahead with some other products.  The die cast mold went on a shelf in China.

Then, a matter of a few months later I saw my design in the display of a competing hardware company, here in the US.  The factory had simply flipped it over to somebody else!  I studied it very closely but I was convinced it was mine and not some crazy coincidence.  Here is Haefele’s handle:

Haefele Handle

It may not be the actual mold, but the engineers could have changed it a touch and then passed the product over to this other buyer.  I just can’t see how my design would otherwise be so similar.  I have nothing against Hafele here at all – it’s been years since I have done this design and I just find it amusing.  I wonder how many of my other “rejected” designs may be out there under another company?

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In other news, I have designed the kitchen area for another store for Pirch, the exciting appliance and fixture retailer – a great location in downtown New York.  The opening is later this month; look for a feature on the store in a few weeks time.