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May 20, 2008


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Jeff Mackey

Hi there..

Interesting series of articles! You might find this interesting, if you haven't seen it already:




You could lend your argument some credence by including screenshots of web apps that were launched before 37 Signals' product line.

Josh Goebel

"You could lend your argument some credence..."

Not really... perhaps I could lend _some other argument_ credence... but not the argument I'm making here. I'm not saying that these apps don't appear similar... I'm not saying they weren't perhaps inspired by 37signals... I'm not even saying 37signals wasn't the first to use sheet of paper design (though I think this is hard to prove completely)...

I'm just saying what these apps are doing isn't theft, isn't piracy, and certainly isn't a violation of copyright.

37signals has inspired a return to less. Less features, less team, less design complexity, less overhead... they should be flattered other people are picking up and carrying the same banner. Less is good IMHO.


If the 37 Signals look is so terribly obvious and unavoidable, one would expect to find many examples predating their products. Is this not the argument you are making?

Josh Goebel

I'm not saying that sheet of paper design is obvious or unavoidable... It's obviously a personal preference. Whether 37signals invented sheet of paper design or not... they have certainly made it popular.

I'm simply making the case that when you start with sheet of paper design constraints you are going to have a hard time doing placement differently than 37signals has done.

Particularly when they vary how they do placement from app to app and from page to page inside certain apps.


I perceive the whole "Design Piracy" series to exist for the purpose of building the case that Auto Raptor didn't lift 37 Signals' IP. But if it can be shown that 37 Signals pioneered the look of their apps, how can we build apps that look exactly the same and claim them as our own?

Josh Goebel

Perhaps we need to discuss intellectual property too before we're done. :-)

This series isn't about any particular app. I am building the case that _any_ and _all_ of the apps we've used for examples have broken no laws and committed no crime simply in their use of a similar "look and feel" as 37signals... next up we're going to look at copyright law... as that seems to be the crux of the matter and the method by which 37signals is claiming legal protection of their "look and feel"

Kevin Milden

They all totally copied them. So. It's not design piracy. Think of design as more of an evolution. They were inspired to create. It is human nature. Would the 60's have such amazing rock music and band without the Beatles? No. Same logic applies. 37signals brought that new sound we were looking for to the table.

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