Lately, I’ve been coming across articles and discussions on the issue of copying. It’s surprising to hear that many of them hold a somewhat traditional point of view when it comes to the idea of copying work. For me, I felt much of my artistic career has been learning how to copy more, and after reading Austin Kleon’s much talked about Steal Like an Artist, my sentiments for copying blatantly have only become stronger.

Your Ideas are Not Original

In today’s hyper-connected environment, where regional and global trends blend into one another, and ideas are born and die at an ever growing rate, can we still claim our ideas are original? Creators struggle to hold onto the idea of authenticity, but over the past 20 years, the idea of the sole author has become harder and harder to hold onto. On the positive side, we are becoming aware of the sources of inspiration, how our ideas have come to fruition from a collective effort. Even better, the more we let go of the pressure of being the sole author, the more we are able to create and experiment more freely.

Good vs. Bad Copying

I’ve read here and there about not publishing any work that is derivative, but I am curious about where the line is drawn between derivative and original work. I would argue for the fact that all of the work that we do is derivative, which is why most it is so familiar and why trends occur. Sometime back, I did not believe this at all, but with these massive movements of copying called, I wonder how I didn’t see it as totally obvious. I can post 100 works from contemporary designers who think they are doing original work, but are all COPYING  each other’s work almost to a T! Perhaps we just need to rethink the way that we see this type of creativity. Maybe work that follows a trend isn’t worth less because of it, but should be seen as a collective experiment.

Publishing Derivative Work

To clarify, when I say COPYING I do not mean replicating. And for those who argue that replications of work should not be published, I would agree. But for those who say derivative work should not be published, I would say that chances are they are publishing derivative work themselves. Your work is a result of the moodboard that you put together for your identity design, the typefaces you listed as influences for your type experiment, the articles you collected for your latest blog entry. All creative endeavors are inherently derivative, so how do we know when work is ready to be put out in the open, when most of the time it is simply a matter of hiding your sources to maintain the facade of originality. I think that only requirement for publishing work is adding a piece of  yourself into it.
Of course design is a service industry and there is a much more straight-forward dollar amount to one’s work that in the art world. But having come from working and studying art, where the boundaries of originality have long been broken, I often wonder if the world of design could use a little overturning, a little push into a new way of thinking.

How would design be effected by getting over our qualms about uniqueness, originality, competition and style?