Last week I was a part of The Design Conference Brisbane, speaking about my experiences with Copyright Infringement. While preparing for my talk I realised that there was a lot that I hadn't spoken about previously so I thought it was about time I published some of it here.
Most of the Copyright Infringement cases I fight are against corporations, manufacturers or other design teams but nearly every week one of my followers will send me an account of someone who has imitated multiple areas of my business. It isn't infringing my copyright but it definitely crosses my ethical line between Inspiration and Imitation. And that is what this is, it's a moral/ethical grey area. A grey area that as designers or creatives, we have the responsibility to keep ourselves on the right side of it. I get it, as a young designer especially you are trying to find your voice or your aesthetic. You may be experimenting with what other's have done before you but does that mean your creating imitations of other designers work rather than creating your own?
So how can we be inspired while not imitating or plagiarising someone else's creativity?
WATCH WHAT YOU ARE CONSUMING
Before we had technology in our pockets at all times, creatives would have to consciously seek out inspiration. Whether it was going to a gallery, finding a book of their favourite designers, look up encyclopaedia (?!) You would have been very aware of what material you are consuming and that is where it gets tricky today. Today we are consuming media without even paying attention. I think this can be dangerous if you are consuming a lot of someone else's art, thoughts, opinions, inspirations even because you can be doing so subconsciously then regurgitating them as your own a week later without realising they aren't originally yours.
DON'T FOLLOW THOSE IN THE SAME FIELD AS YOU
Now I would probably lose at least 25% of my audience if people did this. When you are consuming a lot of media from those you aspire to be like, or whose work is close to your own, that can be a dangerous mix. It doesn't mean that I don't support other's work or think their work is amazing to look at, but I know it really isn't productive for me to do so. Follow people in other fields. If you are looking for inspiration in your feed you're more likely to be able to take inspiration from something in another field, rather than imitating something that was from the same field as you.
IMITATION IS NOT FLATTERING
I don't know what the fuck Oscar Wilde was talking about. I actually feel it is one of the most disrespectful things you can do to another creative. From my point of view, when someone imitates or uses my work without permission they take a part of me. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true. We give ourselves to our work and when someone takes that from us it is very hard to maintain that connection with what we create. When it was at its worst last year with two major legal battles and multiple small cases happening at once, I briefly lost all connection with my work. That is a place that I wouldn't wish on anyone and one that I never want to be in again.
As always, I would love to hear your opinions or thoughts on this topic below in the comments. It adds so much value to the discussion hearing from you guys, getting your input and talking about it more.
FOCUS ON CREATING, NOT THE RESULT
Why do I think so many creatives imitate rather than be inspired? Because we see the final result from someones creativity. We see it appear instantly without any knowledge of the time, edits, full trash cans and tears that went into creating it. We see it without the back and forth between you and the client and concepts that got turned down. But we see a result, that result may gain the artist likes, follows, larger clients, perceived success. Isn't that what all creatives should want? To be 'successful' off their art. So we imitate that result, hoping that we too could be successful artists to prove that our passion can also be a legitimate job.
Imitating someone else's work is the easy route, I get that. But you can't imitate someone else's creativity, you can only imitate the result and by doing so you don't get to truly create at all. The fun part is all the stuff in between. For me it has always been natural to share my work online, it is just something I have done since day one. Take away social media though and I would still be creating because that is how I love to spend my time.
As creatives, we need to spend more focus and give more value to the process rather than the result.
IF YOU HAVE SEEN IT BEFORE, STOP.
It is our responsibility as creators to keep ourselves in check throughout our design process. We should constantly be asking ourselves if we have seen it before, if we have done this before and how we can put our own voice into the work.
GET YOUR INSPIRATION & SPEND ANOTHER 30 HOURS ON IT.
Give yourself and your work time to separate from the original piece of inspiration. Inject your own opinion, cut it up, put it back together. Make it you, not them.