Dick Bruna book covers
There’s been some debate about copying and stealing design work lately (thanks to Jessica Hische’s Inspiration vs. Imitation). The line between ‘being inspired by’ and ‘stealing from’ can be pretty thin. But sometimes it’s just a matter of design conventions. Every decade has it’s design conventions. During the 1910s/1920s almost every car manufacturer logo had a tail. During the 1950s almost all logos from department stores were handlettered. The same goes for chrome scripts on cars. A couple of years ago all “2.0” websites contained glossy buttons and gradients.
I’m pretty sure some of you who see the images above will instantly say: “Saul Bass ripoff!” The image below shows there are indeed similarities between Dick Bruna’s O.S.S. 117 character (late 1950s, early 1960s) and Saul Bass’ Anatomy of a murder (1959). But look at Bruna’s earlier work from the 1950s and you’ll see he used the same technique before. Did they steal from each other? Probably not. I’m not sure they were aware of each other’s work. There was no internet back then. Bass became quite famous during the 1950, but it’s hard to say how well known Bruna was at the time. Chances are if they saw each other’s work they would say: “Matisse ripoff!”
Dick Bruna (1927- ) is best known for the creation of Nijntje (a.k.a. Miffy) children’s books. In total they have sold over 85 million copies. He also designed over 2,000 book covers during his prolific career. The O.S.S. 117 books were part of the Black Bear series. For every author Bruna created an icon, which appeared on multiple books so readers should want to collect them all.