Steve Jobs Tribute Logo Sparks Controversy for Graphic Designer

Jonathan Mak Long

Within days of going viral, commenters pointed out similarities to the work of another artist.

The revised Apple logo, with Steve Jobs' silhouette in place of the bite mark, found its way to all corners of the news media and the Internet in the wake of the co-founder's Oct 5 passing. But the graphic design student who created it is now fielding accusations of plagiarism.

19-year-old Jonathan Mak Long, who lives in Hong Kong, originally created the black and white image in August as a tribute to Jobs when he stepped down as CEO.

And almost just as soon as it went viral, the New York Times reports Mak started being widely accused of copying the concept from British graphic designer Chris Thornley.

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Thornley created a very similar image in May, with a different color and slightly different silhouette.

“It’s been a very overwhelming experience,” Mak tells NYT. “I still attend classes and lessons as usual. But as far as following my assignments, it’s been difficult.”

Mak says he searched extensively to make sure he wasn't copying another design, and even asked readers to point out similarities between his work and any others when he posted it on his blog.

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No one mentioned Thornley's design in any of the comments, and for five weeks the post received little attention. Then Jobs died. 

“Overnight, my website went from getting 80 responses to tens of thousands,” he says. “At first I was very happy.”

And then people started referring to the other design, with Thornley's wife contacting Mak just three days later.

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Mr. Thornley, who is receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, released a statement saying he developed his design in May to "celebrate the fact that someone who had cancer was still working, still driving forward and still thinking positively about the future.”

He also remains diplomatic about Mak's motives, noting that he doesn't think he was aware of the other design.

But that hasn't stopped the negative publicity. Mak says the entire experience has taught him to be more cautious.