Curiosity killed the copycat

Ah, the vast fields of the internet. Filled with blogs discussing all sorts of topics, websites advertising products and damn cute cat videos that, quite frankly, could keep me entertained all day. It seems the World Wide Web offers a never ending buffet of ideas, ready for us to use at any time. Some people like to hide behind the given anonymity and take a little bit more than inspiration – okay, well a lot more – and then pass it off as their own work.

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The learning curve

These people cross the, admittedly blurred, line between inspiration and plagiarism. Don’t get me wrong, research and especially copying is part of the learning process of becoming a designer. Every young creative just starting off has copied something, which in a sense is completely fine. It helps us learn the tools and processes that are involved in achieving a certain result, be it an impressive image composition or a certain layout.

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However, we must grow out of this stage at some point. We need to learn how to take inspiration, rather than straight up stealing someone else’s work. We need to learn about context and how to explore to get the best result for the client’s needs.

The idea of being original is both ignorant and arrogant. Ignorant because you don't know what has come before. Arrogant because you think it was all you.


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When inspiration turns into theft

Take it from someone who has had their work stolen: it sucks. You put all your hard work into a project, long hours and yes, sometimes tears and then someone comes along and just takes credit for all of it. If it’s for educational purposes it might be forgivable, but what’s even worse is when someone actually takes money for the work someone else has done.

A client pays good money to rely on the expertise and solid advice of designer, while tapping into creative realms they couldn’t have imagined by themselves. This is where a designer’s passion lays and ultimately is what we are here for.

Reinventing the wheel

To reinvent the wheel can sometimes be difficult considering a lot has been done before and it’s important to note that overlaps do happen. We all look at designs that have been created before, but we must use these as inspiration. The best way to do that is to not steal the idea directly, but to be curious – explore the style and elements of it. Run with those news ideas and don’t stop at what seemingly feels like a finished end product.

Very much like Lego blocks, building up a library of elements and combining them to create something new is the key to being somewhat original. Make it bigger. Make it better. Make it fit. People have to understand that the idea is good, because it is tailored to the product’s needs. This means it won’t necessarily work for another project and ultimately you’ve created a design that might look good, but fails in all other categories. Strip it right back and concentrate on the core message you’re conveying and make every visual decision with that in the back of your mind. Mindless copying without a conscious thought will confuse the consumer as much as it will the designer behind it.