Double Steve Jobs inspiration or ripoff?

A now famous Steve Jobs portrait may not be as original as we thought.


Fernando Alfonso III

Internet Culture

Published Oct 10, 2011   Updated Jun 3, 2021, 2:17 am CDT

The design student from Hong Kong behind the monochromatic Steve Jobs illustration that grabbed the world’s attention following the tech giant’s death has now been accused of stealing the idea.

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In a post on his Tumble blog, Jonathan Mak, 19, addressed claims that his illustration is a rip-off of an almost identical design created earlier this year by Chris Thornley (who goes by Raid71), an English graphic designer struggling with cancer. One of the people behind these claims was Ben O’Brien, an illustrator, who posted the comment on Mak’s blog.

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Mak emphatically denies that he stole the idea for the illustration from Thornley and did not come across his design when he searched for “terms such as ‘Apple, Steve Jobs, logo, silhouette’” before creating his piece.

He also denied claims that he ripped off this photo from the Washington Post featuring Jobs’ silhouette in front of an Apple logo because “the visual similarities of these images are irrelevant to the design concept, in my opinion, and do not merit the comparison.”

Mak also added;

The visual connection between Steve’s profile and the logo seemed too obvious to not have been picked up on yet. Turns out, I’m right. I will not apologize for ‘ripping off’ Mr. Thornley’s work, because like others who have created similar pieces at around the same time (blatant copies notwithstanding), I have arrived at this design on my own. I do, however, wish to say sorry for not dealing with this as quickly as I probably should have, but I was struggling with how to word my response properly last night.

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O’Brien has since retracted his statement and appreciates Mak’s explanation.

“I believe in this case that jmak and Raid71 could have both had the same idea at different times,” he wrote. “I have removed my original post from my blog as I really appreciate jmak’s response and feel a resolution has been had.  It is a very interesting discussion and I stand with the opinion that if you spot a possible case of plagiarism online, you should always question it.”

These similar sentiments were shared by more than 60 people who commented on Mak’s response.

In response to the controversy, Mak hopes people will donate to the Royal Manchester Cancer Charity on behalf of Thornley. It is this sort of fund raising effort that Mak wanted his illustration to support, he said in an interview with the Daily Dot Friday.

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Illustration by Jonathan Mak (left) and Chris Thornley (right)

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*First Published: Oct 10, 2011, 4:12 pm CDT