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University of Tasmania Union accused of ripping off USU’s OWeek branding

Andrew Bell and Mary Ward dive into a titanic controversy embroiling OWeek 2016.

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The Tasmania University Union (TUU) has unveiled its OWeek theme for 2016 and… it looks pretty familiar.

The promotional material, which features beach-themed imagery, bears a strong similarity to the USU’s “Dive into the USU” branding, prompting some to question whether the design was copied.

The TUU’s branding has been used on their website, Facebook page and events (here, here, here and here), of which were still accessible at the time of publication.

TUU student president Tomas Rolf told Honi he was not at the time of publication “aware of any similarity between the design and the material of any other university”.

Rolf said the TUU was working on their design in early December, and the material in question was created in early January after the union engaged designer Lauren Elise Viney, a former UTAS student.

Viney told Honi she was “unaware” of the USU’s OWeek brand during the design process.

“I was given the brief of ‘beach themed’ and was in contact with the TUU SRC throughout the design process,” she said. “The similarities were only brought to my attention after publication.

While the two brandings don’t use an identical “OWeek” font, they are virtually indistinguishable.

A representative from the USU’s marketing department told Honi theirs is a custom redraw of existing font Barracuda Script, while Honi’s analysis suggests the TUU branding uses free font ‘La Chatte à Mama’.

The USU also used the font for their 2015 OWeek promotional material.

Honi has been provided with the following screenshot, ostensibly indicating the TUU design was submitted to their OWeek working group prior to the publication of the USU’s 2016 material:

Evidence

USU President Alisha Aitken-Radburn expressed her displeasure at the alleged copycat design.

“How blatantly the Tasmania University Union’s OWeek logo was ‘inspired’ by our own is what really astonished [me],” she said.

“We can’t hold too much against them but I can’t help but be a little disappointed for the OWeek directors who put heaps of creative energy into the concept.”

Aitken-Radburn indicated that at the time of publication there had been no attempt to gain permission to use the material to her knowledge, but the USU did not have an intention of asking the content be removed.

Alison Xiao and Jacinta Keast, the USU OWeek directors, told Honi they were flattered by the similarities.

“We all know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The USU’s design team is brilliant, you can definitely see why they would’ve been inspired by it. Thanks TUU for the extra promo of what we hope will be a killer OWeek.”

Aquatic branding has been somewhat of a trend for OWeek celebrations this year. UNSW’s Arc student organisation has themed their week “immerse yourself”, with a nautical aesthetic.

In fairness, the TUU did manage to distinguish themselves in one way, failing to replicate the long list of corporate sponsors present on the USU’s promotional material.