4.22.2014

RAW - COPYCAT: Taking inspiration or taking credit?


Let's face it, ORIGINALITY IS DEAD. And I'm talking real originality -- the kind of stuff that comes out of nowhere, from nothing. You might wake up one morning and come up with some of the best designs you've ever created, but they were probably inspired by something you already saw. Even if most of us are not consciously trying to copy someone's work, our subconscious picks up on everything we've come by. I've rarely come by a website these days and think, "wow this is so original...". Everything is inspired by something else and in the design world, it's very obvious that every designer has gotten some kind of inspiration from another designer. 

I'm not trying to discredit all the hard working designers out there -- and hey, that includes myself. But those familiar with my posts know my fashion. This is 'REAL TALK'. I hate sugar coating things because I feel like all the verbal sugar I consumed over the years is what made me this naive designer that refused to grow. I personally believe being a little thick-skinned can be a good thing. But back to the topic at hand, I've struggled with this topic myself. I hate knowing that my designs are not that original but at the same time, my designs are truly what I believe are 'MY AESTHETIC'. It's what I like. 

Where is the fine line between being inspired by others' works and blatantly copying? To be honest, I think you would know if you are blatantly copying. I mean, some people may be in denial, but in the reality of things, YOU know if you are just copying something because it almost takes you no effort to create it. Taking inspiration, on the other hand, may result in your designs looking awfully similar to another designer's work, but is still seemingly very different. It still has elements of your own designs and aesthetics. It's different enough that not every single thing about it is the exact same, but it's similar to what is already out there. And I think that's okay. If it makes you a better designer, if you love how it looks and how it feels, then taking inspiration can only be beneficial to you. But who it may not be beneficial to -- is the person you took inspiration from. 

And here's where my RANT comes in. I've come across a handful of bloggers and articles where the designers complain about being copied. Now, some situations I can understand. For example, when bigger companies are actually stealing images and designs from a small, self-employed blogger and gives absolutely no credit. This is something that actually happens quite often, because let's face it, people steal because they think they can get away with it. If you tried to steal an image from a well known establishment (i.e. Apple) you won't get away with that. No chance. But a small town blogger or designer is easy to take from without everyone knowing where that source was from. This is something I can completely understand. It's wrong and it's unfair to the original creators. 

What I can't stand hearing is people complaining about how someone 'TOOK' their design 'IDEAS'. Meaning, they are complaining about other people being inspired by 'their' work. Yet, most of those people who complain also have designs that are OBVIOUSLY inspired by someone else! Hypocritical much? On top of that, they do nothing differently to try and surpass the blatant circle of 'inspiration'. What do I mean by that? I mean, do something different! Change it up! If you're that appalled by the fact that more than a few handful of people MAY have the same design aesthetic as you, then you need to do something different. Be one step ahead.

I've had people take inspiration from my own work. It's usually by my peers or people I actually know, so it's pretty easy to spot. However, I see nothing wrong with it because I draw inspiration from other sources as well. But the thing is, when it happens often, my designs start to look just like everyone else's and so I try to switch it up. It's about subtlety. It's about changing up elements of your design but not completely revamping everything all the time. As a designer, I simply KNOW WHAT I LIKE. And I'm not going to change what I like just because everyone is doing the same thing. If everyone is doing the same thing, it's probably because they also like that style. It's like saying your 'STYLE' is skinny jeans and a white shirt. And if someone else you know starts to suddenly wear skinny jeans and a white shirt, they are suddenly 'copying' you. Or, maybe they saw what you wore, liked the simplicity and decided to adapt that to their style as well. 'Copying' your style would be buying the exact same jeans, exact same t-shirt, with exact same hairstyle, accessories etc. But adapting a style is not 'copying'. It's simply adopting the same 'idea' and aesthetic as you because believe it or not, more than one person is allowed to like the same style. 

Again, it's about subtle changes. A lot of people like the same design aesthetics, so instead of being a complete copy of everyone else, change up the elements of your design. It's the little things. For me, I would say my biggest design 'style' is my use of colors. I am a huge fan of BRIGHT, BOLD and kitschy colors. But I also like simple, modern and minimal designs. And as specific as that is, it's still not "original" but it's the style I like and it's the style I've adopted. 

It's never cool to take credit for something someone else came up with. That's something that will never gain any respect and on top of that, it teaches you zip about being a better designer. But taking inspiration and ideas from other designers might actually help you become a better designer. But 'take' is such a bad word so I like to use the word 'adopt'. Be inspired. ADOPT design ideas. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a selfish person who probably think they are 'original' when they really are not. Design is also about sharing. Who would see and appreciate the beauty of it if people couldn't see them? So share, learn and create a style that you'll love and can call your own.

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