When my friend Breeyn texted me that two capybaras escaped from the High Park Zoo, my immediate response was, “Fuck yeah! Good for those guys!”. Inspired by the idea of cute giant rodents running around Toronto, (and the super lame 2008 Twilight Team Edward/ Jacob meme) I wanted to create a Toronto themed #teamcapybara logo. The logo was made in a few hours on the evening of May 24. I created the logo for fun, not profit, and decided that I would declare it copyleft.
My friend Renée sent me a note on FB the day after I designed the logo musing how funny it would be if she made t-shirts for her son’s field trip; they were going to High Park to search for the escapees. I was super amused by the idea and sent her the files – she printed amazing buttons at People Power Press, since Ts were impractical. Seeing the kids wearing the buttons in photos really warmed my heart.
Here’s Renée’s photo of the buttons, which ended up all over the place:
#HPAS Kindies are heading to @HighParkNC today … and they're ready for #CapybaraWatch! Are you on #teamcapybara? pic.twitter.com/18e8vfc3eI
— HighParkAlternative (@TDSB_HPAS) May 26, 2016

It was when I updated my profile image and noticed a few others on facebook do the same that I realised the logo got some traction – I was so honoured. I designed the logo to be shared – I wanted it to go viral. I thought it was cute when I was making it and that delighted me.
I started seeing a lot of this:
#capybara #CapybaraWatch Saw this on FB. Someone make this t-shirt official immediately… pic.twitter.com/jequfDZHGh
— Cathy Frank (@CathyFrank2016) May 25, 2016

I almost opened an online shop to start selling t-shirts and merchandise and stopped just short. I came super close to opening a Cafe Press shop; when I saw my logo on all the preview products I was sold. The jerks blocked me based on concerns about copyright. I think their concerns are baseless, cowardly and establish a dangerous precedent. But, it did force me to evaluate whether I should sell merchandise. What’s interesting is that while they were blocking me, shady people were setting up their own shops – I know of a few; the attempt to block me from selling my design ensured rip-offs and that the wrong people profit.
Ultimately, I decided it was wrong and tacky to sell merchandise; the world doesn’t need more tatty crap with a logo on it and profiting off something I did in an evening is not right – it has a sad desperation that I disagree with. Also, I have no idea where or how the t-shirts are produced, and that’s a concern.
I decided I would rather leave the logo out there – if people want to profit from it that’s their choice, but I’m against it. I decided I would send the file to anyone who asked for the artwork and respond politely to everything – all responses/ messages. If people want to take the design to a local shop and get it printed, that’s amazing and very different than opening a shop – I’m all for that and supporting a local press is a great thing to do.
Here are some interesting things that have happened.
On FB somebody asked if a t-shirt could be made. A stranger offered to make t-shirts for this person. When I suggested I could also make the shirts he suggested we DM him with the cheapest price so he could decide – that’s when I concluded, “screw it – I’m not doing this”
People friended me because they liked the design
Strangers took the files and started selling their own t-shirts without asking me about it
Someone asked if they could open a shop
I decided that anyone who asked for anything would get the logo artwork – better to have high quality floating out there
Here are some things I’ve concluded:
Selling someone else’s art is bad – stealing or otherwise
People feel they own viral art – I’m okay with this, it’s just strange
You should resist the urge to profit off of things you do for a lark
People mistake indifference for endorsement
The urge to sell tatty crap when people demand it is nearly overwhelming
Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to acknowledge that the original influence is obviously the blue jays logo. I’m a proud Torontonian, although I’m indifferent to baseball, and the logo has always been a part of this city for me. One reason I don’t want to profit from the #teamcapybara logo is out of the pure respect I have for the original design. The original design is a masterful logo. I’m enamoured with the precise and beautiful linework. I love the logo and I’m amazed at the creativity of the interpretation of a blue jay. The original and 2012 version (the inspiration for #teamcapybara) are amazing! A design is more than the specific implementation of a piece of art – it is a system that defines the elements of art (and principles); line, shape, form, color etc. It is not my design to profit by.
Back to Top