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Graphic Design and Plagiarism in Saudi Arabia Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2020


In contemporary times, the advent of the Internet has made it easy to share various artworks. For example, sites such as Github and CodePen make it very easy to share graphic design works. The sites act as sources of inspiration for graphic designers; however, the challenge is the transitioning of the source of inspiration to the aid for plagiarism. About Saudi Arabia, there is no succinct data that shows the extent of graphic design plagiarism.

Nevertheless, there is a common cultural orientation of sharing in the community. The digitization of the graphic design contents has led to increased cases of plagiarism, not only in Saudi Arabia but across the globe. The main point in the paper is that reusing another person’s graphic design work is not regarded as a violation in Saudi Arabia; instead, it is viewed as a means of sharing essential information and hence the need to address the issue.

Based on this perspective, plagiarism in graphic design in Saudi Arabia is a complex issue that needs a concerted effort to solve. There is a need to explore the various dimensions in which plagiarism takes place. Thus, the paper presents an exhaustive analysis of plagiarism in graphic design and the implications of technology in enhancing the problem; also, the paper provides a direction for solving the issue.

Graphic Design and Plagiarism in Saudi Arabia

Across the globe, plagiarism has become a big problem for authors and artists. The literal meaning of plagiarism is theft, taking materials that are produced by other people and presenting them as your own. It entails illegal appropriation of work done by other people or sharing the work of other persons or organizations like your own without attribution of the use to the author (Music 210). Plagiarism is unethical publishing and it is unacceptable both in academic and professional works. Presently, uptake of technology such digitization has resulted in widespread copy-paste plagiarism in different disciplines.

Plagiarism takes place in different ways. For example, it may include the use of other people’s ideas, texts, collusions, and self-plagiarism. Concerning graphic design, plagiarism can take place in two forms. It can be unintentional (accidental) or intentional (deliberate). Unintentional plagiarism happens due to the lack of knowledge about the limit of using other people’s ideas to create your design and failing to attribute the borrowed ideas to the owner (Music 210). This type of plagiarism is common among students and new graphic designers. On the other hand, deliberate plagiarism entails taking other people’s work knowingly and presenting the work to make the audience believe that the plagiarist is the originator.

The issue of plagiarism has been in existence for many years. It affects many disciplines such as academic and professional research. Also, it affects disciplines related to creative art; for instance, some of the masterpieces of Mozart were copied by Sallier. In poetry, a good example is the plagiarism of Shakespeare’s poems. In the field of graphic design, plagiarism has been common in the logo designs. It is worth noting that the problem is perpetuated by professionals, students, and even companies.

Logos usually undergo modifications so that elements from original work are hidden. Nevertheless, most of the copied logos have a clear resemblance to the original. For example, the logo for the 2020 Paralympics Games in Tokyo Japan has been subject to plagiarism claims. The design is claimed to have been stolen from a Belgian designer who had designed it for a stadium. Figure 1 below is the previously proposed logo for the Paralympics Games 2020 and the original work of the Belgian designer.

Plagiarized Logo for Paralympics Games 2020.
Figure 1: Plagiarized Logo for Paralympics Games 2020.

Graphic design is a visual language that can be understood across the globe by diverse audiences. It transcends language barriers and can be shared and understood by people of different cultures. This aspect is normally because graphic designers share styles, ideas, and design elements. For a long time, the point of differentiation of designs has normally been the cultural aspect (Al-Yamani and Abdul 4).

However, with digitization and the consequent easy sharing of the artwork, the cultural aspect has blurred. This is attributed to the close sharing of ideas and dishonesty in which originality that formed the foundation of graphic design as the true measure of culture has been flaunted by plagiarizing; hence, creating complex designs. Across the globe, universal contemporary culture in the field of graphic design has been created due to globalization and the current digitization of various kinds of information.

Therefore, it is not surprising that graphic designers from different cultures are emerging into a single culture in which designs are produced targeting the citizens of the world unlike in the past where specific designs were to be consumed in particular cultures (Economou 16). The universal contemporary culture points to the progression of a discipline which is less than 100 years since the time it was recognized as a profession. Nevertheless, the threat has been the increasing plagiarism and infringement of copyrights that seem to slow down the originality that is associated with different disciplines of art.

As noted, plagiarism entails the unauthorized use or imitation of someone’s artwork and presenting it as an original copy. It also includes acts of appropriation where a graphic designer directly takes over another artist’s work and uses it as his or her original copy. In Saudi Arabia, plagiarism has been common in logos and advertisements. For example, a Saudi artist claimed that his work had been used by Swatch Company to advertise Omega’s Seamaster Aqua Terra watch.

Hajj-Inspired Picture used by Swatch for Advertisement.
Figure 2: Hajj-Inspired Picture used by Swatch for Advertisement.

Karabag and Berggren stated that the publications are original works of producers; thus, when published they become sources of reference in which ‘citability’ is key to the promotion of the originators (173). Besides, just like researchers and academicians, graphic designers should adhere to ethical codes based on the principles of integrity and honesty and authorization for use of any published work. Also, graphic plagiarism can be found in cover books, magazines and front pages of magazines and newsletters. Figure 3 shows similarities between two front pages of different publications signifying possible cases of plagiarism.

Front Page Similarities.
Figure 3: Front Page Similarities.

The graphic design in Saudi Arabia and the larger Middle East is a case in point. It is an industry that has blossomed, and creativity has been flourishing. However, compared to the Western world, graphic design as a profession is quite young in Saudi Arabia. Despite being relatively young, the industry has been driven by globalization which has influenced the local cultures that traditionally have been visually rich. Also, the socio-economic situations in the region have been affected by the influx of Western organizations.

This has had a direct effect on the dynamics of the industry. The results have been powerful, and many people have taken to display their creativity with excellent designs. In Saudi Arabia, there are unending streams of designs that are handmade, photographed and edited images that have been accepted by the locals. The graphic design has played a critical role in supplementing the visual culture which is regarded as a form of expression.

In Saudi Arabia and the entire region of the Middle East, graphic designs are integrated with the unique Arabic calligraphy. However, as the world ushers in the new graphic designers, Bamford and Sergio pointed out that the challenge of plagiarism is rife in Eastern cultures (18). Bamford and Sergio argued that plagiarism is not limited to the research and academic world, but it is interwoven in graphic designs where it is hard to detect (21).

Original works of leading designers are replicated and shared and even commercially sold without the consent of the originator. The duplication of the work transcends the regional boundaries; hence, any work shared over the Internet is open to infringement. This leads to the originators’ rights over the materials infringed and consequently, they lose income. In Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, this is not categorized as a crime due to cultural and social orientation.

The lack of detailed information on the extent of the graphic design plagiarism has been attributed to the cultural orientation of most Arab-dominated countries. Bamford and Sergio stated that the ownership and attitudes towards private property vary across the world (19). Therefore, some people may engage in unintentional plagiarism. For example, in countries where the tradition of private ownership is cherished, there are strict rules and regulations on intellectual property.

On the other hand, in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, there is a tradition where most of the information is passed through the word of mouth. Therefore, there is a common perception that information comes from wisdom and as a result, it is in the public domain to be used freely. Thus, plagiarism is a new word for many graphic designers in Eastern cultures. What may be considered as cheating in the Western world such as the U.S. may be termed as sharing in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. The cultural perspective characterized by the social aspect of sharing makes it difficult to stop the problem.

In Saudi Arabia, the accomplishments of an individual are not recognized; instead, they are credited to the family or tribe which is unlike in the individualistic cultures where personal achievements are cherished. In individualistic cultures, people are not expected to share ideas, and if it happens, there must be an acknowledgment of the originator. This cultural divide presents the difference in the use of graphic design products. Many people who have been used to the culture of sharing do not find it wrong to copy or edit the graphic designs they access over the Internet as their own.

The aspect of interdependence cannot be ruled out in the increased cases of plagiarism (Sowden 227). For example, in modern Saudi Arabia, issues of academic honesty have been embraced due to the influence of the Western education principles of originality. However, in graphic design, there is still no clear demarcation between using the graphic designs shared over the Internet as sources of inspiration and when they use turns out to be plagiarism.

It is worth noting that plagiarism of either research or artwork is considered misconduct, it breaches confidentiality and intellectual property. In the modern world, there is an increased sharing of information. This includes photographs and other graphical designs. The process has been made easy by the use of the Internet and the emergence of social media. This implies that original graphical designs produced in the U.S. and fed into the Internet can be accessed across the globe. This denotes the importance of technology in disseminating information, but it turns out to be a problem when people use the contents without recognizing the authors.

Use of Technology and Creation of Awareness to address Plagiarism Issues

There is a lot of misinformation and confusion about the unacceptable and acceptable use of resources of third parties not only in Saudi Arabia but in many countries across the globe. This is exacerbated by the increasing digital content that is available for use. As a result, students and other artists continue to use online materials without attribution. Bamford and Sergio indicated that plagiarism remains to be the biggest ethical issue that faces artists across the globe (18). To analyze plagiarism in graphic design, different lenses can be used. The lenses revolve around the copyright laws, fair use and manipulation of photos and their relations to plagiarism. Plagiarism in graphic design should be approached in the context of morality and technology. In this aspect, Boylston pointed out that social awareness, culture, and moral choices influence the production and use of graphic designs across the globe (54).

Music noted that plagiarism can be avoided by providing source credit whenever an idea, fact, drawing or any piece of information from another person is used (209). Due to technological development, it is very easy to identify plagiarism in the academic and research work, but it becomes very difficult to detect plagiarism in the case of an idea or drawings. In graphic design, the plagiarists may integrate patterns to present a complex image that may appear original but on closer analysis, it shows it has been a modification of the original work of another person which is achieved by changing colors and scales.

Therefore, unlike in text where various online systems can detect the proportion of the plagiarized work, it is very difficult to achieve similar results in graphic design. As noted by Music, modification of captions of an image leads to the production of a complicated copy (209).

According to Al-Dabbagh et al., graphic plagiarism normally takes place as modification and integration of figures, tables, and charts (2). Some systems have been developed to detect text plagiarism such as Turnitin. However, the systems cannot detect plagiarism in graphic design. Despite the limitations, there are emerging techniques that can be used to extract features in graphical designs to analyze plagiarism. Specifically, there are technologies for detecting plagiarism of bar chart image. These are algorithmic approaches that have been developed by the use of computer codes.

They entail the use of program codes that can detect similarities by the use of patterns. An example of such technology is the intelligent bar chart plagiarism detector which uses algorithmic codes. It can be used to determine changes in the scales of image and the integration of pattern that the plagiarist may have used in statistical bar charts. Al-Dabbagh et al. pointed out that the ability to use algorithmic codes to detect graphical plagiarism in bar charts presents technological progress which in the future can be advanced to detect plagiarism in graphic design images (9). In addition to technological progress, there is the need to create awareness among designers to make them understand the differences between using the readily available designs for inspiration and what constitutes plagiarism.

As noted in this paper, the issue of graphic design plagiarism in Saudi Arabia is not intentional, rather it is due to the socio-cultural orientation. As a result, the measures that are employed in the Western world such as the use of computerized applications to detect plagiarism may not comprehensively address the problem in the problem in Saudi Arabia. Besides, there is a lack of adequate technology to detect the proportions of plagiarism in graphic designs. Therefore, to counter the problem, the approach should entail the creation of awareness and ensure that students are taught about the importance of originality and the negative implications of plagiarizing images (Boylston 53).

For example, a proposal that has been adopted in other countries should be implemented in Saudi Arabia, i.e. “teaching towards an ethical legacy in graphic design”. This will contribute to changing the perception of the upcoming graphic designers in Saudi Arabia.

Education will be the start of transformation and hence it will create a society that respects other people’s originations. Also, morals should be impacted at the education level where the student is penalized for any work that is considered to be plagiarized. Students should be taught the importance of professional standards. This will be in line with Holland, who noted, “students with no professional experience are daunted by the professionalism and don’t understand the importance of professional standards. It needs to be brought alive for them” (9). The awareness should be based on the revolutionization of the mindset even in the communities where sharing is a norm. To realize this, the change should start at the school level where graphic design is taught. For instance, graphic design teachers should emphasize the excellence and promotion of individual work.


Graphic designers produce ultimate products of artists; an original graphic design is a measure of success and achievement of an artist. Thus, the artist has a right to benefit from the design commercially and through acknowledgments. This implies that any infringement hurts the original designers. Just like there have been developments in detecting and preventing plagiarism in academic and research disciplines, the field of graphic design should put in place stringent measures to reduce the cases of plagiarism. For example, there is a need for technological developments that will help to detect plagiarism in graphic design.

Also, there should be more emphasis on all graphic designers to abide by the ethical codes that guide the profession. For instance, upholding morality in which honesty and integrity are cherished to avoid issues of copyright infringements. The measures should be taken bearing in mind that many people in Saudi Arabia have embraced the graphic design. Consequently, the digitization of information has increased the cases of graphic design plagiarism in the country.


With the proliferation of graphic design plagiarism in Saudi Arabia, some measures can be put in place to curb its spread. The recommended solutions include the development of technology for detecting plagiarism and emphasis on morality in issues that relate to the use of other people’s work. For example, it is important to put in place international codes guided by ethical aspects of the graphic design industry.

The technological and moral aspects will help to address the general problem of plagiarism in graphic design across the globe. For people in Eastern cultures such as Saudi Arabia, the technology should be integrated with education to enlighten the people about the implications of plagiarism and the importance of originality in the profession of graphic design, i.e. using technology to detect cases of plagiarism and at the same time teaching the Saudi Arabians the importance of respecting other people’s work and originality.

Works Cited

Al-Dabbagh, Mohammed, Salim Naomie, Rehman Amjad, Alkawaz Mohammed, Saba Tanzila, Al-Rodhaan Mznah, and Al-Dhelaan Abdulla. “Intelligent Bar Chart Plagiarism Detection in Documents.” The Scientific World Journal 1.1 (2014):1- 11. Print.

Al-Yamani, Suhaila, and Hanan Abdul. “Civilized Environment as a Source of Inspiration in Fashion Design by Using Computer.” Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management 7.1 (2011):1-13. Print.

Bamford, Jan, and Katerina Sergio. “International students and Plagiarism: An Analysis of the Reasons for Plagiarism among International Foundation Students.” Investigations in University Teaching and Learning 2.2 (2005): 17-22. Print.

Boylston, Scott. “Teaching Toward an Ethical Legacy in Graphic Design.”Teaching Ethics 7.2 (2007): 49-62. Print.

Economou, Inge. “The Cultural Context of Contemporary Graphic Design”. South African Journal of Art History Volume 18.1 (2003): 15-27. Print.

Holland, Dikens.“Where Our Wild Things Are: Graphic Design Ethics in an Age of Exacerbation.” Communication Arts 1.1(2010): 1-11. Print.

Karabag, Solmaz, and Christian Berggren. “Retraction, Dishonesty and Plagiarism: Analysis of a Crucial Issue for Academic Publishing and the Inadequate Responses from Leading Journals in Economics and Management Disciplines.” Journal of Applied Economics and Business Research 2.3 (2012): 172-183. Print.

Masic, Izet. “Plagiarism in Scientific Publishing.” Acta Inform Med 20.4 (2012): 208-213. Print.

Sowden, Colin. “Plagiarism and the Culture of Multilingual Students in Higher Education Abroad.” ELT Journal 59.3 (2005): 226-233. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Graphic Design and Plagiarism in Saudi Arabia'. 16 July.

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