Design Plagiarism at the TTC (or is it the MTA)? [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on May 9, 2008

It’s not plagiarism; it’s just lameness. Be sure to read the “Updates” sections at the end for details.

Take a look at these suspiciously similar subway safety posters. The one on the left is from the Toronto Transit Commission, the one on the right is by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority:

Comparison of two suspiciously similar saftey posters from the TTC and MTA
Click the photo to see a larger version.
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele and Vidiot.

My question is: who plagiarized whom? Given the New York envy that a lot of city planners, developers and assorted people running Accordion City seem to have, coupled with the unoriginality of the ad campaigns to promote the city, I’d bet that the TTC did it. I’d love to be proven wrong, but this has all the hallmarks of our local brand of half-assery written all over it.

Update 1:

“senior”, a commenter, points out that:

If you read the gray text on the bottom left of the Toronto poster, you’ll see that it says something along the lines of “posters produced in co-operation with the MTA.”

While it’s honest, it’s still lame. We both agree that it’s pretty sad that the TTC couldn’t come up with their own safety poster ideas.

Update 2:

A response from Brad Ross, Director of Corporate Communciations for the TTC, with the downright Chuck-Norris-ballsiest first sentence I’ve seen in a comment on this blog in a good long time:

You are wrong.

The Toronto Transit Commission requested, and received, permission from the MTA to use this creative concept. Transit properties across North America often share “creative” when communicating safety messages to their customers.

If you look closely, you’ll see a line that reads, “Concept and design R Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York.”

Constructive criticism of the TTC is welcome, but alleging plagiarism without first checking the facts is simply unfair.

Regards,

Brad Ross
Director – Corporate Communications
Toronto Transit Commission

Hello, Mr. Ross!

Firstly, please allow me to apologize for calling “Plagiarism!”. I couldn’t read the text at the bottom of the photo and assumed it was graphic design plagiarism, which happens quite often.

I updated my blog to correct that as soon as I find out. That’s the beauty of this medium: its ability to adapt as new information comes in or as dictated by circumstances. It’s an ability I hope the TTC will someday acquire.

I think that there are ways to get the share creative without being so stultifyingly, blandly, boringly, homogenous. The MTA’s poster reflects its unified design identity right down to its typeface. The only thing that’s uniquely “Toronto” about the TTC’s poster is the photo — the rest of the poster, right down to the layout comes off as being a lackluster copy of the original. What’s partly to blame is the lack of a unified graphic identity for the TTC, an organization whose communication skills are so poor that its best website and merchandise are fan-made, not official.

I’m certain that you could’ve gone with the general creative concept for the safety poster and done something a little original.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

senior May 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm

If you read the gray text on the bottom left of the Toronto poster, you’ll see that it says something along the lines of “posters produced in co-operation with the MTA.”

Now, why they couldn’t come up with their own idea for a “don’t run down the stairs” poster is beyond me.

Chris Taylor May 9, 2008 at 12:38 pm

The other interesting thing is that apparently TTC patrons are, on average, much clumsier than NYCT patrons. Go figure.

Ben May 9, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Clumsier? I’d just assumed that NYC patrons are, on average, stabbed, assaulted, and shot more often than TTC customers.

Susan May 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Toronto’s women are not only clumsier, they are also hotter by the looks of the posters.

Not that I’m surprised.

senior May 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Additionally, this poster fails to depict the most common cause of TTC staircase injuries: me, pushing slow people out of the way.

There’s a train coming, people! I’m far too busy and important to wait a few minutes for the next one to come along!

Brad Ross May 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm

You are wrong.

The Toronto Transit Commission requested, and received, permission from the MTA to use this creative concept. Transit properties across North America often share “creative” when communicating safety messages to their customers.

If you look closely, you’ll see a line that reads, “Concept and design R Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York.”

Constructive criticism of the TTC is welcome, but alleging palagarism without first checking the facts is simply unfair.

Regards,

Brad Ross
Director – Corporate Communications
Toronto Transit Commission

Joey deVilla May 9, 2008 at 3:54 pm

@Brad Ross: My apologies — for details, please see this update to the blog entry.

Brad Ross May 9, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Thanks Joey. As I said, criticism is fair; we accept it …and listen to it, too. I appreciate the update.

Yours,
Brad

Joey deVilla May 9, 2008 at 5:10 pm

@Brad Ross: And my thanks to you for the best calling-me-out in a long time!

Adam Wisniewski May 11, 2008 at 10:47 pm

IMO… Countless meetings of TTC employees trying to come up with some creative to inform people about the dangers of being in a hurry would be wasteful.

I’d rather they copy NYC’s MTA idea and spend the savings on sending their drivers to “smile training” or something.

Monique May 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm

It defies belief that anyone would actually request to copy those awful, awful posters. I found my way to this blog searching for info on who came up with these staggeringly bad (and uniformly appallingly photographed, or at least atrociously reproduced) designs for the MTA.

Every time I catch sight of one of these posters on the subway, I marvel again at just how terrible it is.

Carl McIver March 10, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Ironically, my buddy was a art director on staff at the MTA and he
originated the subTalk campaign. He won awards for the type solutions as well as the logo design of using the existing tiles to develop the brand identity. I’m just so amazed that this creative is that well apprecited over any boarders. I love the symplicity of some of the creative coming out of Cannada. Wow…Reminds me of what Chris Rock said when he commented on Janet Jacksons boyfriend Jermaine Depri. ” Like saving all your life for a Rolls, and as soon as you have enough you find out they are giving them away.” I’ve designed many posters for NYC agencies. And trust me they do want the best creative.

Mary July 13, 2010 at 7:45 pm

People were having fun,” Ross said. “We just wish they could stay on the ground next time.”

This is a comment you made for the newspaper, how can you say that, this is not accepted breaking the windows of the streetcar, so you are saying that it is ok to go around and break TTC property. These people should have been arrested, where was the police? Who is going to pay for all the damage, I guess all of us the taxpayers for stupidity.

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