Plagiarism: The “Orange is Controversial” Controversy

We love it when other websites link to IBD. Whenever we see that we’re getting hits from another site, we click right away to see if we need to alert our web host that we’re going viral. (“Batten down the hatches! Della Jane’s baseball quilting group posted a link on Facebook!”)

So when I saw a few weeks ago that we had gotten a couple hits from a site called Dream Stream, I went to check it out. It was a surreal, Inception-esque moment when I saw on this other site my own words from a recent post about the color orange. And not just a few of my words, but all of them from that post (though none of the images from the post were included, which is a little funny, because the text specifically references the images). I don’t want to link to the site, but you can see a bigger version of the screen capture below by clicking on it.

It was even more jarring to see that not only was I not credited for the article, but someone named Philippe was.

I should point out that I get called Phil all the time. One person I know has called me Phil for the better part of a decade, and I was once quoted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal (true story!) as “Phil Caputo.”

I have several theories for this: There’s a famous author named Philip Caputo (no relation). The names Phil and Paul are easy to confuse since they both start with P and end with L, and they have the same number of letters. And finally, I root for the Phillies. (I sometimes wonder if IBD Phil and Other IBD Phil root for the Paulies.)

But I don’t think it was confusion over my name that caused my intellectual property to show up on another website attributed to someone else.

It was difficult to find contact information for the site, which is run by a company in Brussels. Comments on the blog post were closed, so after some research, I found a general mailing address on the company’s Facebook page and sent a message indicating my displeasure and asking them to remove the post. I received this response:

Dear mister Caputo,

Please accept my apologies for this. We usually put the source of each article on our internal blog. We have added your source immediately to the article. I hope this suits your request.

Kind regards,
Philippe De Wulf

Philippe had added this attribution at the bottom of the article:

I debated writing back and saying that it was not enough, and I debated trying to start a Cooks Source magazine style Internet campaign against Dream Stream (see Nerd Rage: A Response to Internet Thievery). But the wind was out of my sails. I had received an apology and attribution, though not exactly in flashing neon lights (I should have asked for my name in an animated starburst), and the prospect of a trans-Atlantic copyright battle seemed fruitless.

So words that I wrote still exist on this other site, looking to all the world like they were written by Philippe. At the very least, Dream Stream’s use of my words falsely attributed to someone else is immoral. At the most, it’s illegal copyright infringement. I can’t say for certain whether the folks at Dream Stream are simply ignorant or actively malicious, but this episode is a reminder that it’s incredibly easy to steal copyrighted materials that exist online, and that there’s a gross misunderstanding of what that little copyright symbol at the bottom of the page means.

I likely never would have known that I had been plagiarized if Philippe had thought to remove links to IBD’s other “Get to Know a Color!” articles contained within “Orange is Controversial,” but I get the idea that he didn’t look too carefully at the article before taking credit for it.

All of that being said, I hope Philippe’s Belgian friends got a big laugh at his insightful and hilarious jab at the New York Mets.

Get to Know a Color! Orange is Controversial

The color orange elicits strong reactions. For instance, it makes the Syracuse University mascot smile (though he does not have much to smile about at the moment) and it surprises prop comedian Carrot Top.

The website Sensational Color proclaims that orange “sparks more controversy than any other hue,” and that it “elicits a stronger ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ response than other colors.” I learned this firsthand early on in my design career, when I used bright orange in one project and was thereafter known to some of my orange-hating coworkers as “Mr. Orange,” “that guy who uses orange all the time,” or “fat idiot.”

A combination of primary colors red and yellow, orange is a secondary color. It’s warm, so most color theory sources agree that orange is an upbeat, high-energy color and a stimulant of everything from appetite to brain activity. The website Color Wheel Pro says that “orange increases oxygen supply to the brain” and is “highly accepted by young people.” (I’m not sure what they mean by “young people,” but my orange-haired four-year-old daughter likes orange, and she does not shy away from controversy.)

According to Wikipedia, the name of the color comes from the name of the fruit, and “the first recorded use of orange as a color name in English was in 1512, in the court of King Henry VIII.” (Also according to Wikipedia, George Clooney is president of the United States and William Shakespeare was born in 1927 and was raised by a family of squirrels, so take that with a grain of salt.)

In various cultures, according to Sensational Color, orange is accociated with happiness and love (China and Japan), family (Native American), gluttony (Christianity), and Tang (USA). (Okay, that last part wasn’t in that article, but you know it’s true.) Bright, citrus-like orange is associated with spring and summer, while darker orange is associated with fall.

Speaking of controversy, even though the Dutch flag is red, white, and blue, orange is considered the color of Dutch national pride (not to mention their soccer team, the Oranje). Why? Because orange is the color of the Dutch royal family, which “hails from the House of Orange,” according to the article “Why the Dutch Wear Orange” on the website Dutch Amsterdam. In fact, the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day every April 30 by singing, “Oranje boven, oranje boven, leve the Koningin!” (Orange on top, orange on top, long live the Queen!), presumably while waving red, white, and blue flags.

Another interesting fact about orange is that every single time I have ever heard the soon-to-be-defunct color-coded terror threat level announced in an airport, it has been orange.

In design, orange can be used to attract attention without being as alarming as red or as oppressively cheery as yellow, but if you use it, be prepared to deal with the orange haters.

Orange is often used with its complement, blue, to create a bold, vibrant color palette, which is why you often see this combination in the uniforms of sports teams, such as the Denver Broncos football team, the stupid New York Mets baseball team (who, if they never win another game ever, it would be fine with me), and countless college and university athletic programs. This striking, blue-orange palette is frequently used in aquariums to draw out the color of the particular species of jellyfish pictured here. The photo above is from the Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, but it’s no accident that you see this blue used in this sort of display in many aquariums.

As with other warm colors, it’s easy to overuse orange. Because of its brightness, pure orange is best used as a highlight color, especially online. The website examples above mitigate the offensive effects of orange by using a light, peachy tint (Pampaneo) or using it at full saturation, but sparingly (Glue). (These examples are borrowed from the article “24 Examples of Orange Websites” on the website Inspiredology.)

Also easy to overuse is this joke: Knock knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?

Finally, orange is high in Vitamin C, which prevents scurvy, and that’s something we can all agree on.

Also in this series (so far): Red, Blue, Yellow, Purple.
Photos courtesy The Sports Bank and ABC.

Obnoxious Use of Color

IBD Management would like to welcome the return of snarky Shea back from his hiatus after several weeks of posts that were slightly confusing, borderline awkward, and weepy.

Well, it is official that Paul and I have gone 10 posts without one that carries the underlying theme of sports. Now that I have separated myself from the touchy-feely Shea (much like the Tickle Me Elmo), there is something that has been bothering me for several weeks and I just have to get it off of my chest—the use of the color orange by the University of Tennessee should be banned.

I have always considered the color orange to be my favorite color. There is something about it that makes me want to buy orange clothing and accessories (primarily sweater vests and bow ties), as well as anything that I don’t already have that comes in orange. I also find myself using it in design work, just because I like looking at it, even though I usually end up changing it to something different.

The strange part of this obsession is that I love the color orange and it really bothers me how it is abused by the University of Tennessee. You would think that since I am drawn to the color orange, then I would be interested in supporting the University of Tennessee. But in reality I have a strong emotional connection against the University of Tennessee and if they really want to be the Volunteers, well, I wish they would volunteer to dial that color down and make the world a better place. I should provide you with some background information of why I carry so much disdain for the University of Tennessee and its obnoxious use of orange.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and by default most Memphians are fans of either the University of Memphis or the University of Tennessee. (Before Paul makes a comment, I will insert that I am a Yankee fan due to a strong influence of my grandfather and with baseball I really had no choice.) That being said, I attended school at the University of Memphis and found a great outlet of my inner anger and frustration that could be directed towards the University of Tennessee’s sports teams. It was and still is a great outlet. In fact, the single greatest moment in my college life was when the University of Memphis beat the University of Tennessee on the football field at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday, November 9, 1996, by the score of 21-17. Well, that’s the single greatest moment in my college life, next to meeting my wife.

Tennessee-TSo, I love the color orange and hate the way the University of Tennessee abuses it.

So, why am I drawn to the color orange? A lot of thought has been put into the psychology behind how and why people respond to various colors and color palettes. I wish there were a solid foundation of color theory that everyone could agree upon as the definitive expert on what colors mean to individuals. There is no such source, but rather many theories and interpretations. Many are contradictory to others, with others finding common ground. offers this interpretation of my personality based on my connection to the color orange.

Orange: This color of luxury and pleasure appeals to the flamboyant and fun-loving person who likes a lively social round. Orange people may be inclined to dramatize a bit, and people notice them, but they are generally good-natured and popular. They can be a little fickle and vacillating, but on the whole they try hard to be agreeable. Orange is the color of youth, strength, fearlessness, curiosity and restlessness.

I’m not so sure about the “fickle and vacillating” portion of the analysis, but there may be some truth there. This site offers an analysis of most colors and the personality traits that may be associated with specific colors. The problem with this type of analysis is that I find it to be about as valuable as what you would find in a fortune cookie. Maybe that’s what she means by “fickle and vacillating.”

In interpretive design we try to use colors to connect the tangibles to intangibles. Colors are used to help connect visitors to a resource. They can be used to evoke emotion, represent a sense of place, or even be used to create an environmental design that has little impact on the setting where the media is being used. We should spend as much time in the decision-making process of choosing colors as we do creating the theme, writing the text, choosing the typeface, or any other design element.

While I am in this frame of mind, for those of you that enjoy the color combination of pink and green, you are next on my list.