Sunday, March 21, 2010

Copying vs Inspiration

With all the recent emails I have received from other artists alerting me about my work being copied and for seeing them all first hand myself I have decided to comment on the issue.
Not only is it unethical, it's very disappointing to have people take your designs and use them as their own. I don't mean the people who are crafting for themselves for fun, they always tell me they are inspired to make them and show me. I love that! But I am speaking of the ones who copy to sell them. And to be fair, I've approached them. Some have stopped others have not.
I recently read a post titled " Why You Shouldn't Copy Us Or Anyone Else. Though the article pertains to writing software,the meaning and explanations are clear and can be applied to any form of creation. It Reads,

"Why You Shouldn't Copy Us Or Anyone Else"
By Jason Fried, 37signals

Here’s the problem with copying: Copying skips understanding. Understanding is how you grow. You have to understand why something works or why something is how it is. When you copy it, you miss that. You just repurpose the last layer instead of understanding all the layers underneath.

The article is referring to ideas and business models, but I think interface design is an example more people can relate to. Have you seen an interface (Work of Art) that was obviously copied from someone else’s interface? The copy usually lacks depth and detail. They miss the spacing, the proportions, the relationship between colors and objects and buttons and links. It’s usually pretty close, but there’s something not right about it.

Why? Shouldn’t copying something be easier than creating it? Someone else already did the work, right? The problem is that the work on the original is invisible. The copier doesn’t know why it looks the way it looks or feels the way it feels or reads the way it reads. The copied interface(Work of Art) is a faux finish.

This is why future iterations of a copied interface begin to break down quickly. The copiers don’t understand where to take it next because they don’t understand the original intention. They don’t know the original moves so they don’t understand the next move.

Look around at interfaces that were clearly copied from someone else’s UI and you’ll find a lot of inconsistencies and sore thumbs. That’s the new stuff.

While I’ve been using interface design as an example, the original article was more about business models. I think copying leads to a lack of understanding there as well. Be influenced by many, copy none.

So bottom line: Copying hurts you. You miss out on what makes something good. Instead, try to be exposed to a variety of perspectives and points of view. Take whatever you find useful and leave the rest behind. Fill in the gaps with your own ideas. In the end you have make your own way forward.
Jason Fried, 37signals

Obviously the copycats don't care about taking from the original creator or how it makes the original artist feel, but they really should consider what it does to their reputation.

Thanks to everyone for your support on this issue. It is comforting to know that there are so many of you who see it for what it is and feel the same way.

1 comment:

Barb Smith said...

Just so you know that I AM reading everything as I go along from your blog beginnings to the present, I wanted to stop here and comment. I have had artwork ideas stolen verbatim and it pisses me off when it's done for profit, too. I've never done anything about it because I know that my inspiration well will never dry up and as I move on and create different things, they will still be stuck doing those same things they stole from me. C'est la vie.
Peace & Love,