As a design student, I look up to a lot of other designers in the industry, and studying others' design work helps me to develop better knowledge and understanding of design happening around the world.

Designers take pride in their work from start to finish -- the researching, brainstorming and final design executions. It is what we use to differentiate our work from the crowd. We spend a countless amount of time constantly building our portfolio until we're happy with it (but let's be real we'll never be fully satisfied). And we freely share our work with everyone in the community, in hopes that we will get recognition for our efforts or that it will lead to the next job. However, anything you put online is accessible to anyone, which is vulnerable to plagiarism and theft.

But then do you choose not to put anything online? I was taught about plagiarism in school. But I never thought much of it, I just followed the rules and cited all of my essays. The internet has opened up an infinitely large library for all of us. If we need inspiration, there are plenty of design websites to look through. The internet is also great for allowing yourself more exposure for your work and to connect with new people. You may be thinking, "I'm safe, what are the chances someone would come across my site out of millions and use my work?". Those were my thoughts until it happened to me.

I woke up this morning to several people messaging me that my work had been stolen. I was in disbelief but the linked portfolio site really did use one of my portfolio projects. Right in the middle of the page was a Yelp App Redesign that I created one year ago as a personal project and to be used for interviews. All the research, visuals and process were my own. The entire portfolio piece was copied word for word, and all the images were taken from my website.

Below is my project (left) and his project (right):

All of the writing is copied word for word. This is how my project starts:

And here it is on his website:

Below is an image of phone screenshots I took to critique the original app, with my name as the logged in user. He kept it untouched with my name still there:

Basically everything -- images, text, GIFs --were 100% taken with no changes. Although the images were more pixelated:

I do not have much knowledge or experience on dealing with plagiarism in design, but the design community is small -- especially in Toronto, so best believe that anything you try to copy could come back to haunt you. The violator and I had many mutual friends, something he never realized.

I expect fellow designers to have respect for each other and to not steal original designs knowing the amount of effort and creativity needed to produce it. What can you be proud of if you are not using your own designs to advance your career? Unwittingly, my design could have been used for more than just displaying purposes, e.g. interviews and job applications. This is dangerous as recruiters and interviewers viewing your portfolio may mistakenly label your original work as plagiarism if they have previously seen the same designs in other applications.

As of this article being published, I have already reached out to the plagiarist to ask for my work to be taken down, and suggested that he ask for help from other designers instead of hastily stealing others' work. This kind of toxic behaviour should not be tolerated in the design community. As designers, we should all support each other to prevent future incidents. How can designers teach and inspire each other, if they become afraid to share their work?

Tracy Cai is a UX Designer based in Toronto. You can see her work here.