Just Creative

I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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The Secret To Creativity…

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Smashed lightbulb - Photo  © Kyle May

Every designers’ dirty little secret is that they copy other designer’s work. They see work they like, and they imitate it. Rather cheekily, they call this inspiration.

~Aaron Russell

Or to put this into a slightly similar phrase…

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

~Albert Einstein

The latter quote by Einstein is the topic that myself and two others have to talk about, for 20 minutes, for a university project and I thought it would be great to get some responses from you guys…

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How true is this statement?
  • How does hiding your sources make you more creative?
  • When does inspiration become plagiarism? (Great discussion in Aaron’s article)
  • Have you ever copied someone’s work? Or parts of? (Be honest)
  • How much of someone else’s idea can we copy before it becomes a copy?
  • Is there such thing as an original idea?

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62 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Kathy Reply

    My first jewelry teacher made me promise that if I copied someone’s design, I would make it better!

  • Emmet Reply

    That’s the first thing my boss said to me the day I started doing work experience as a designer! He gave me a list of websites to browse and said ‘graphic design is all about stealing other people’s work and passing it off as your own’. I thought it was kind of interesting because as I looked through some of the websites (like logopond.com for example) there were so many logos with comments referring the designer to similar logos, that they may or may not have seen before creating theirs, but still. I think if something is based on another design, but developed far enough to become ‘unique’, it’s not plagiarism at all, it is just inspiration. Which is where things get really confusing! And to answer your question, yes I was involved in a project which blatently stole an idea for use in a design :P Really interesting post, can’t wait to see the comments. I hope you keep us updated with how your project goes!

  • medXcentral Reply

    My father always said; “There are no new ideas.”

    I don’t know the answers to the other questions in the article above.. but I think the point my Dad made is an interesting one.

    Do we really believe that, whatever it is we are building, thinking or doing has never been pondered by anyone else in history?

    I’m in the process of building something “new” and I know that it has been thought of. Though… maybe not in the precise form I’m bringing forth. In any event, I have to be honest and say that there are parts of many proven business models embedded within the design of my “new” creation. So, is it really new? Or, am I simply going to be the one who figured out how to sustain the idea until it becomes mainstream within my industry?

    So.. add a question to your thought process; If there are no original ideas, just because someone tried your idea before and did not succeed, does that prove your proposed idea will not succeed as well? (sorry for the poorly formed question… but I think it makes a point.)

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  • Jason Reply

    I think there needs to be a differentiation, obviously, between stealing “themes” and stealing “work”. There aren’t any creative ideas any longer; merely variations on themes. The work, however, needs to be your own. Stealing themes from a story: good. Stealing text from a story: bad.

  • Shay West Reply

    Jacob: Awesome, though-provoking article about creativity! Bottom line, creativity is about learning, and learning is done through continuous observation of the world around us. Creativity comes in when one is inspired by a concept, and he/she puts their special turn or perspective on an idea.

    Thanks for making my Monday a little more creative!

    Shay West
    http://twitter.com/shaywest

  • RebelDesigner Reply

    How true is this statement?
    This statement is just so true… and I found this out now after working in an agency for 7 years… and in the beginning I use to think that what is it that seniors hide when ever you go to them… and with experience I found out that its the website that they were hiding, so in short it is true statement…

    How does hiding your sources make you more creative?
    Its doesnt make you more creative PRACTICALLY, but logically when you got the inspiration and now with a little twist you showed them your concept the audience will take it as your idea so logically you are considered creative… and this is why they dont want to reveal that they have copied it from somewhere…

    When does inspiration become plagiarism?
    we all get inspired and I think this is why we are designers, I personally have not attended creative education (as I’m from Computer Sciences) but I’ve seen books where they actually teach you how to take inspiration from even the smallest of the thing that comes your way, I think we all somewhere go through plagiarism atleast a little percentage, as we grew up seeing our elders and then getting inspired and start behaving like them… (either some comic character, some movie star or even father) so I think it is sort of learning stage that we all go through it, the misery is some stay in that stage for life time while others grow up and start coming up with there own ideas

    Have you ever copied someone’s work? Or parts of?
    well I think part of someone’s work might have been used by me but not as it is… with my touch cause as i said its my passion that I’m in advertising not because I’m from art school… so I think it is not possible to copy for those who are drove by there passion… passion for design…

    How much of someone else’s idea can we copy before it becomes a copy?
    Can’t tell… cause it happened twice with me that I made something and then after few days or few more days I found same kind of idea somewhere (on tv, print media, web…) now if someone sees my work and that idea he can say it is copied but to me it is my own creation… so finding it if it is copied or not is bit hard…

    Is there such thing as an original idea?
    Yes… original ideas do exists… but if you look deep inside it… they are also inspired from something which only a creator can tell – or sometimes even he dont know, it is just somewhere in mind…

  • Wladia Viviani Reply

    Well, I am a developer and a musician as well, so I have a pertinent story to tell.
    I remember when I first started to put some feeling into playing: I wasn’t so sure about the best interpretation to give to each piece. So I started “copying” one of the best world pianist recordings, as well as I could. At least, it would be a good interpretation. Well, after some time I noticed that my “copied” interpretation had switched to a personal one, quite a different one indeed, and I liked it just as much. I don’t know when or how it happened, I think it was kind of a natural evolution, and I guess that’s the natural outcoming of any artist’s inspiration. If the source becomes hardly – if any – recognizable, that’s not copy at the end, as long as one’s criativity speaks louder, so… why not?

  • michelle Reply

    sooo true … but w/caveats :)

    i don’t care what field/industry you’re in … we all stand on the shoulders of giants. it’s just our job to reconcile many different sources and substantively improve what we’re stealing!

  • Robin Cannon Reply

    I try to make it as untrue as possible, although certainly there are themes and ideas of websites that I find inspirational, and aspects which I will use my designs.

    I decided though that using the web as the main source of inspiration starts to make any website design more generic and samey. All your inspiration is based off certain techniques and an inherent acknowledgement of technical limitations.

    I’ve found myself far more inspired to try new things since I deliberately stepped away from the computer when initially drafting a design. I sketch, I have a scrapbook of cuttings and pictures. I come up with ideas and artwork that aren’t subject to my thinking about how I would put a *website* together in a technical sense. Then, when I’ve come up with such a design, I find that most technological limitations can be overcome by code, and subsequently designs are far more fresh.

  • EXXCORPIO Reply

    I think every designer take at least something from here and there.
    When I was ignorant in design, i made really awful things (and I continue), but with the time I’ve started to see and learn from the biggest artists in the history and i start to copy some of theirs ideas but the really, it’s not copy and do the same thing that the other designer did, its to create something based on that idea, not just copy the result itself, and if you does you have to make it better and always says thanks.

  • moverend Reply

    I read this somewhere and it lifted all my insecurities about being a fraud or unoriginal designer:

    It’s not where you take things from…It’s where you take them to.

  • Amanda Vlahakis Reply

    I would say there is a massive element of truth to it.

    Very few creatives of any form (art, design, music, literary) produce anything completely and utterly original; we are all inspired by what we see, read, and hear.

    The key to being an ethical designer and becoming a good designer is knowing the clear distinction between inspiration and plagiarism and finding a way of developing something fresh from your inspirations.

  • Kevin Gamble Reply

    “So too we are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they.” – Isaiah di Trani (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants)

    The answer is “both”: being inspired by previous iterations of ourselves is not a bad thing, but unless you improve on it (no matter how minute the detail is), you cannot say to have made any progress.

    Therefore, I feel that although some things may have been inspired by others, it is the subtle differences that both moves us forward and allows us to use the title “designers”.

  • Steven Clark Reply

    It’s a complicated subject… very few ideas aren’t fed by the work and ideas and ‘inspiration’ of others around us.

    But there is also a tendency to follow certain trends that are damaging to the industry – more or less cloning the work of others and not just the ideas. That can be a dangerous line. There’s a word called filching that comes to mind, taking the work of others and changing it just a little… a form of plagiarism.

    The designer / illustrator / programmer or whatever has to really care about not being a mere emulator though. It can break your career if it gets divulged later, especially if a client is sued over your work. In the world of business it’s a lot more than just pride about the originality of work.

    At the same time, we have to accept that even before the information age 2 people could invent the same thing on different continents simulaneously simply through the commonality of inputs…

    Finally, I’d mention that when a graphic designer knows they’re in the clone market and are making ‘the sameish’ as everyone else, well it’s time to look for an original style. A good designer should be distinctive in their style over the years – Steven Heller’s Stylepedia…

    Big subject, how do you fit it into 20 minutes. Good luck with it.

  • Craig Reply

    What a grey area!

    Of course this relates to many different fields and industries, but when thinking about it in a “web design way”, I believe it is hard to not follow trends when the web is so saturated with similar content. It is perceived that a certain type of site should look a certain way.

    It is refreshing when a new “style” emerges (in the early stages), but it doesn’t take long for the “inspiration posts” and “tutorial posts” on design blogs to re-saturate the web.

    My 2c worth anyway.

  • edwinbored Reply

    This is pretty cool. How he can cautch the moment!

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Kathy,
    Another quote to add to the mix!

    Emmet,
    I wouldn’t go as far as saying that however it does have an element of truth to it, especially in advertising. Even my advertising lecturer’s door has a post-it-note on it saying something along the lines of “get out of advertising, it is the same rehashed ideas repeated over and over, in every agency you will find the same books”.

    The topic of fake logo designs has been brought up here on JCD and I find it quite cheeky… Designers find a concept of another logo then they change the name of the “company” to make it sound / look better. But I can leave that there has it has already been discussed in the article linked above.

    And that is brave of you to own up to taking the idea from one project for another.

    MedXCentral,
    Not sure if there are NO new ideas but certainly rehashed ones… innovation you may say? Your question, confusing as it may be, did make sense… you could use what Kathy said in the first comment as a form of “answer”?

    Jason,
    Interesting way to put it.

    RebelDesigner,
    1. So are you saying when ever you approached your seniors, they hide the internet browser from you?

    2. Another interesting way to put it “the audience will take it as your idea so logically you are considered creative”… so technically the idea is copied however the final result is not.

    3. This was a topic brought up in the post “Accidental Plagiarism“. And something that was also talked about by Sir Ken Robinson… schools are teaching people out of creativity, not into it.

    4. You say you haven’t copied but what about the idea or concept of a design? The theme?

    5. This is a very thin line here and not sure if anyone has the answer to it, including the ancient legal system that governs the law today.

    6. Agreed.

    Wladia,
    A different perspective there, thanks for sharing!

    Michelle,
    Very much like what Kathy’s teacher said. (First comment)

    Robin,
    Could you provide an example of how the website would be different by using these ideas and sketching in comparison to say if you did it another way?

    Exxcorpio,
    I could also relate here… for example when I had to produce a beer label, I really had to study the “look” of other beer labels so that it didn’t end up in the wrong market area… or end up looking like a shampoo bottle. It helps to “copy” how other designs work for use in your own designs.

    Moverend,
    Nice quote!

    Amanda,
    Most probably not but there are always something that looks so “new” that could it could be passed off as original… yet in most cases the core concept is not.

    Kevin,
    Thanks for another great quote and perspective. I liked how you phrased this: “it is the subtle differences that both moves us forward and allows us to use the title “designers”.”

    Steven,
    I suppose that is where “trends” come from. Being at University I see so many first year students trying to emulate the current trends – it really does get to you but you just have to ignore it, they will learn in time.

    And in regard to filching, this is what I am talking about… this really frustrates me, not only because they are taking nearly all of someone else’s hard work, but because they are passing it off as their own – I believe this is pure plagiarism not inspiration. Anyway, I have to present for 7 minutes of the 20 minutes so we will see… I just hope it doesn’t turn into a rant.

    Craig,
    Web design also has so many other constraints to keep into account which limits the amount of creativity within one’s design, which is one of the reasons why trends on the net are so much more noticable. Thanks for your 2c!

  • moverend Reply

    I just remembered where I’d read it…

    It was an awesome quote by Jim Jarmusch quoting Jean-Luc Godard on this very subject. Very inspiring.

    http://yayeveryday.com/post/770

  • Ryan Reply

    This has always been an interesting topic to me. I’m surprised Shepherd Fairey’s case for his HOPE/PROGRESS poster hasn’t entered the mix. This seems, at one level, a lawsuit attempting to define what is appropriate when it comes to inspiration and copyright infringement. I hope he wins, because I hope inspiration wins.

    Inspiration comes from input. Whether a painting, a song, a river or a dream, it is all input and it is all because of what we experience. It becomes an illegitimate copy when it is consumed and spat back out again with a same purpose.

    I wouldn’t hide my sources. My sources are everywhere!

    Thanks for the stimulating post, but I must ask: If you use any of my response in your University presentation, would that now be inspiration or someone else’s work? ;)

  • @chopps Reply

    Interesting topic. For me referencing other sites/designs to create a similar level acceptability and quality is really circumventing the creative process.

    Any creative endeavor, whether it be logo design or website template design, and I guess I am talking more about surface than information architecture although the holds true, should be based in process.

    Going through the process of defining the value systems or the qualities that you are trying to communicate at the surface level is more important in the earlier stages of the creative process that looking for external sources of inspiration.

    Once you understand what you are doing, what you are trying to communicate, then looking at other example designs for ‘ideas’ or even to evaluate how effectively these values are being communicated through the devices of shape, color, line and typeface is another effective tool in arriving at a design that does its job well.

    These activities that are employed at the more thoughtful and successful design studios that I have had the pleasure of encountering and I think, are they more likely to produce ‘original’ results, as opposed to copying without really understanding why.

    A perfect case study for this would be the similarity of early web 2.0 surface designs that seemed to be more about fashion than effective communication.

    Stay true to the process, creation is an activity, even though the clients pay for the end results.

  • Callum Chapman Reply

    Wow, good questions! I’d only say someone copied someone else if two pieces (or more) look almost identical. Every one looks at other peoples work and like things about it and include similar ideas in their own work.. but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘copying’, it’s inspiration, and I think designers who influence other designers so much that they include similar things in there work should be happy that they have this effect on people! However I think everyone, not just designers, should have their own creativity and style.

    I don’t think there’s such a thing as an original idea. I’ve come up with ideas before for design projects etc with no influence of other designers whatsoever – come online to find they’ve all been done in similar ways before. There just isn’t enough ideas to share between everyone!

    About copying other peoples work, I’ve most definitely taken inspiration from other peoples work and used similar styles, but I have never copied anything pixel for pixel.

    Great discussion btw!

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Ryan,
    I am also interested to hear the outcome of that case and like you I think inspiration should win. And if I do use your quotes I would be giving credit where credit is due ;)

    Chopps,
    Even in design schools they teach this (to go out and research successful and unsuccessful designs)… Analyisis is a key part of the process and like you said will allow you to “produce ‘original’ results, as opposed to copying without really understanding why” however unlike studios, students struggle more with this.

    Callum,
    Guess you were right, I would see you around on here!

    “About copying other peoples work, I’ve most definitely taken inspiration from other peoples work and used similar styles, but I have never copied anything pixel for pixel.”
    I can also relate to this… one example of this would be Nik Ainley’s 3D work… he influenced my 3D cover designs, but certainly mine were not copies of his designs, just the general theme and style.

  • Amanda Vlahakis Reply

    I’m Just A Creative Blog also makes some very interesting points about fake logo designs. I was just reading their post on it yesterday, which is how it came to mind.

    (http://imjustcreative.com/logo-design-tips-avoid-getting-intimidated/2009/03/22/)

    When we see the amazing logo designs in logo design inspiration websites, I’m Just A Creative makes the rather valid point that rather than becoming intimidated by the genius behind them to realise that many of these great concepts are for made up companies.

    With a made up company and name one has the convenience of a great company name and concept to work with.

    Of course we all know in reality this isn’t always the case – having to work with excessively long company names, bad company names, awkward to convey services, client demands and much more.

  • RebelDesigner Reply

    Hay Jacob check out http://twitpic.com/2mu2y/full and tell me if it is inspiration or plagiarism….?

  • Christian Horn Reply

    Hi Jacob,

    what makes a good musician or band today? I think in 2009 there are no unplayed notes or chords. But every now and then we hear fresh new sounds that we like. So in my opinion the secret of a “good job” or “a good work” in such a business, is to combine all these little parts of options and possibilities with your own style to a whole construct. And this construct is the product of your creativity.

    Hope my english is not too bad and makes sense. im from germany … :-)

    greetz
    Chris

  • Maciej Reply

    Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
    Pablo Picasso…

  • Andris Reply

    I guess you cannot reinvent the wheel.

    So getting inspired by everything you see or here is just natural.

    To copy a piece of art or whatever one by one is not creative but criminal.

    The creative part is to collect all the good stuff and get it together as a new one.

  • Frederik Højlund Reply

    Just a quote I thought is worth mentioning in this connection:
    “Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Pablo Picasso

  • Callum Chapman Reply

    @Jacob, you’ll be seeing my name about more from now on.. hopefully! And yeah, I think all designers, graphic, web, and product designers all get influenced from other peoples work!

  • Brandon McGregor Reply

    A professor of mine had two sayings that seem appropriate here….

    “You’re only as good as your reference”

    “There are no new ideas, only new combinations of old ideas.”

    What I’ve taken from that is that it’s not so much about being original and unique, as taking solutions that others have already come up with, and making them better and work for your client. If we had to re-invent everything every time there’d be a whole lot more poor design out there, and we’d all be broke after spending months on every little job that crosses our desk.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Amanda,
    Yeah I had a read of that article yesterday and tweeted about it, thanks for posting the link again. I also brought it up in my article “Fake Logo Designs“.

    RebelDesigner,
    Had a chat to you on Twitter about it!

    Christian,
    And did you know that nearly every song in the top 30 consists of four chords?

    Maciej, Andris, Frederik,
    Another nice quote, thanks!

    Callum,
    I suppose it is natural in some sense and part of the process.

    Brandon,
    Thanks for the quotes from your professor and some interesting points you bring up, never really thought about it like that.

  • Michael Reply

    I think that there is nothing new under the sun. We all are the same, and we all think some of the same things, because we are all inspired by life.

    When I ‘bite’ someone’s work, it never comes close to whatever they’ve done, because I start adding my own touches to it so it changes almost instantaneously.

    I don’t think hiding sources makes me more creative. I may appear to be, but thats a false image being projected.

    The only time it becomes plagiarism, is when you copy something almost exactly and try to pass it off as your own. But if you take bits and parts of things you find. Thats just using something you’ve seen, just like the person that created what you’re looking at was inspired by something that they saw.

  • BenSky Reply

    A gritty and interesting topic, i firmly believe that design requires inspiration to be successful, it is essantially research. But there is a fine line between using existing design as an inspiration, putting your stamp on it, improving elements and turning it into an *original* piece of work, to just straight up copying. I think every designer instinctively knows just how much they can use as inspiration from existing work before it crosses the line and becomes stealing.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Michael,

    I would beg to differ about saying we are all the same. On similar note, why can some people draw as a child and some others not? Is this what we call talent or is talent something that we need 10,000 hours to work towards?

    I do however believe what else you have said is correct.

    Bensky,

    Research is a critical part of the process and is also part of the inspiration however I don’t think that “every designer instinctively knows just how much they can use as inspiration from existing work before it crosses the line and becomes stealing” and that is what I believe is the problem, knowing where to draw the line.

  • Janko Reply

    Excellent questions! However, it is easy to say that everything today is plagiarism and stealing. Stealing is when someone literally copy your work.

    There are 6 billions of people today and it is unavoidable to have some kind of repeating. Our DNAs differ in less than 1% but each one of us is still unique. If we copy nature (as we always do) then only small percent of differences is what makes creativity uniqueness, and originality. Thieves are something else.

  • Emiloly Reply

    Flat out copying is not only illegal but morally wrong. However if you see a design you like and feel inspired to build upon it it is acceptable.

    I’d think it is true to say that every artist needs a ‘Muse’

  • Barry Koehler Reply

    We are an amalgam of everything that makes up our lives. In web design, trying to come up with a design that is TRULY original is no easier than any other design arena, be it print, video, or other. For me, the key to considering it as original, is when I can truly feel that I have put part of myself into a design; that I have added something that few others would have added in the same way.

  • Vicki M Reply

    Great discussion topic, and a lot of ways this can be taken. My boyfriend is a web designer and I’m in school now for graphic design. This is a topic that we have had countless conversations surrounding. It’s hard to draw a clear line in this matter but one thing we always manage to agree on is that art/design should always be moving forward. If there is nothing that I can offer what has already been done in order to advance the movement, what am I even doing? Inspiration is necessary and inevitable (whether a designer recognises that impact or not). However, what the individual brings to the inspired work that is unlike anything else is what makes the work memorable.

  • Soud Reply

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this is a duplicate comment (talking about copying)

    I think copying is OK BUT subtract from that copying the idea of the design, and it is ALWAYS crystal clear when an idea is being copied. Sometimes it is hard to think of something unique for a project, the more people who think so the more valuable a unique design will stand out from the crowd, and such design is the one I’m talking about that is not permissible to be copied. A good example: https://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/logo-planet-wrap-greener-way-gift-36408 and a good example of impermissible copying is ofcourse Mr.Ubuntu figure no matter how much you twist, turn, squeeze’em…etc

    Realigning elements in a design, rotating, scaling…etc are ofcourse considered copying but it still depends on the project you’re working on; take for instance coming up with a logo design for a social media company, I consider thinking of speech bubbles a “common way of thinking” or a “common starting point” through out the brains of the designers (out of subject: just don’t be cliche by stopping at that starting point and just place it there without something creative added to it, stopping there isn’t illegal copying but it isn’t creative) so that is not illegal copying.

    As a further example, see my entry (humbly) #353 here http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/creative-director-hoping-starts-good-logo-54892 , it’s actually ALMOST similar to the same tail in another withdrawn entry that had just the tail in a circle as an icon and FoxWalk beneath, the big zigzags of the tail in that withdrawn entry gave me the idea of using the tail as a “W”. i.e I copied an element (No one has the copyright of a fox’s tail right?) but came up with an idea. This is what I consider fine.

    I am now thinking someone should come up with an article called “A copier’s guidelines to legal copying” :) I see copiers as a bunch of chimps who just act what humans outside the cage do (excluding eating bananas :) So be unique, don’t eat the banana…eat the peal ;D

  • Soud Reply

    I just have to say this one more example; the twitter bird, coming up with variations of that is not considered illegal copying for different twitter applications.

  • Alistair Reply

    Great post. I have often thought about this. In particular I think the fashion industry as a good example. There is constant discussion about the latest fashion trends and styles in the media. For designers to be in fashion they essentially copy basic principles and then add their own tweaks or details to the general trend.

    The same is true in the Graphic design and Web design industries. The question is where is the line between fashion or inspiration and straight out copying?

  • Adrian Borkala Reply

    I think it’s a lot like evolution, in that you take a starting point and tweak the original, add something new, take something away and before you know it you’ve ended up with something so far from the original that you wouldn’t know it’s source. I think what Einstein meant when he said “knowing how to hide your sources” was in fact: if you’re good at what you do, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t (in the case of design) when working from something as inspiration. You’ll also know how to add your own personality or spin to it to make it your own. By that thinking, if you’re not so good at what you do then you’ll simply copy an original and try to play it off as your own work.

  • Leigh Taylor Reply

    The secret to creativity…

    Before I attempt to give my perspective on creativity one of the most significant revelations when reading the comments (read most scanned the rest) is how much limitation ‘we’, as a society, put on every single one of us.

    More revealing, is how most are influenced to the degree of acceptance by ‘words of wisdom’, quotations and advise from all types of superiors in the world. Even without an attempt to gain a little context, some self awareness or understanding.

    Firstly we need to understand that the ‘words of wisdom’, quotations and advise are simply that persons perspective. Not a truth, nor a fact and in most cases not even a help. It is just the persons past experience articulated in a way to make them sound like they have learnt from it.

    Often, it is yet another limit imposed on us. A guide to lead us away from self exploration, from creativity.

    Be in no doubt I am not an exception, I hold my hands up and admit to my naivety to it all too. Been there, got the t-shirt, in fact worn it out.

    So first things first; creativity needs to be about questioning everything, question ‘superiors’, question quotes and advise. More importantly question yourself.

    I feel this is going to be a lengthy comment, apologies in advance but please stick with me.

    Let me give a little background to my view on things that will hopefully give a better insight when I offer my answer. Last year I was asked to do a presentation on the meaning of design (link to creativity will come shortly) to be delivered to both designers and non-designers alike. The first and one of the most obvious reasons why their is such ambiguity about its meaning is because of too much generalisation and saturation in todays world. The word could be applied to engineers, painters, sculpters, strategists, mathmeticians etc.

    So,after months of research I narrowed down four cornerstones of creativity, character traits if you will (obviously this is shorthand):

    • Vision (conceptualisation, imagination)

    • Design (providing solutions, answers, guidance)

    • Art (expressionism, emotion, communication)

    • Craft (technical aptitude, skill in production)

    Dependant on the individuals degree of ability in one or more areas did determine ‘roles’ more suitable for their personality.

    For example, a stonemason would, ideally, need to excel in craft and design, to accomplish a restoration project while a sculptor for a museum display would benefit by an enhanced artistic ability and could afford compromise more on design.

    It didn’t stop at just character traits either, influence from an individuals past, their experiences and place in society impacted heavily on their outlook. The short example; The child of a Japanese calligrapher would have a totally different perception of the word ‘design’ than an American engineers’ son/daughter.

    Which goes a way to explain not only the diversity in understanding these generalised terms but also the variety of explanations given.

    So a common theme, especially, in the comments is one of originality. Even if there is such a thing.

    From what I have learnt stealing work is nothing more than self development in craft, maybe a little more awareness in design and art but has no vision, so therefore no originality.

    Being inspired by someone else work and develop your own take on it does give more benefits in all areas; vision, design, art and craft but if the question is about originality then the influences and limitations already set out in front of you err you away from originality yet again.

    Hiding your sources does nothing more than divert accountability when things don’t work even if it is just in your own mind. If all works out well you can divert it back for acknowledgement and pat on the back just make sure the sources are well hidden.

    Plus hiding sources has the added benefit of allowing you to create your own personal ‘shortcuts’ by producing stereotypes (trends in our community) for production. Good for deadlines and getting paid, not so much for originality.

    Originality can happen though! First a thorough understanding in psychology both individually and culturally (past, present and comprehending the future), add an in depth knowledge of all your personal and experiential influences, limitation and hindrances. Then, when you have all of that together. Ball it up, throw it out of the window and lose yourself in your imagination and question everything. Learn to forget. Creativity is not born out of restriction and neither is originality but it isn’t an impossibility.

    I promised myself I wouldn’t end with a quote but here is one from our old friend Einstein:
    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

    A little indirect to your direct questions but hope it helps all the same.

    Oh and remember, as I mentioned right at the start, this is only one perspective. The difference is it just happens to be mine, wink!

    Right, now to back to designing off a website template…

  • priyanka Reply

    I feel there’s only one thing original in the world and that is nature itself. Apart from that everything is imitated. Be it a painting of some famous painter or some invention.

  • Faraz Reply

    Firstly ,i loved reading this article and even more the comments made here as the topic is so interesting and the statement that you quote of Einstein is what actual point is.Every design is inspired by something even if you didnt see it anywhere still then it is copied either from nature or any other product made by man earlier so i believe in what Einstein said Creativity is to know how to hide your sources.

  • ChristineGreen Reply

    Wow, the article is really great and the quotes of Russell and Einstein are just nothing, but true. Everyone has one’s point of view. And of course one thinks that he’s absolutely right. But still the topic could be seemed in various ways, that is someone thinks about copying a single element and rework or renew it, others try to imagine something completely new and implement into life.
    But the source could be obvious.

  • Kitty Reply

    * How true is this statement?
    It depends on how you view it, in the mainstream it is very true most people who make it big steal from others. Does this make it right? not if it includes totally ripping.

    * How does hiding your sources make you more creative?
    It doesn’t, it makes you appear more creative. A example is some of the best students in my program, they tend to be working on a project and at the same time looking up concept to “borrow” or be “inspired” from.
    The problem is the appearance can be shattered when the original artist finds out.

    * When does inspiration become plagiarism?
    Inspiration to me is when you see something,and are well inspired so you take one thing you like about it and twist it and tweak it and go crazy till you create a inspired piece that is not say a copy of thwe original with a few tweaks.
    a example being a project I did for a class. We were supposed to be inspired by another designer, then make a poster with it.
    I chose the Iranian/Tehranian designer Pedram Harby’s work. I liked how he used shapes and type in a interesting and unexpected fashion while keeping it simple.
    So I took that concept, and went nuts.
    The result was completely different in appearance, style, you name it. But the concept was there, that is inspiration in my mind.
    Plagirism would be what another student in our class did(most of them probably) and pretty much copied a piece made by a famous typographer whose name I forget.
    Plagirism can also include stealing of ideas without asking the author(original artist),which is a problem in this field.

    * Have you ever copied someone’s work? Or parts of?
    Yes, I admit when practicing human form for the first time I drew tons of Mortal Kombat characters from reference but I never USED them for a project. And I never will, anything I draw for reference is for me alone, I never use it or try to make money off it for it is unethical.
    * How much of someone else’s idea can we copy before it becomes a copy?
    I would say, roughly 30 percent.
    The reason is thirty percent still makes it so the piece is still semi inspired, and it really depends on what you copy from the piece.
    Like I said before mimicking a concept is ok if you twist it left and right and go nuts down your own path.
    But if you say stole all the graphic images from a piece, that is copying.
    * Is there such thing as an original idea?
    Yes, I have them all the time it is not just me being conceited either.
    I have a game I like to play called the give me a subject game, give me a subject I spit out two or three or more original ideas.

    Part of this is due to the fact that I am highly imaginative, but another is because I limit my exposure to other designers work.

    I think you lose originality when you are over exposed to the work of others, because I think many people have the ability to be original but for most it is very hard to do so they copy instead.


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