Inspiration/Plagiarism: There's a Line

One of my favorite songs by Electric President says "There's nothing new to discover, there's nothing new to invent, there's nothing new to think that hasn't been thought of before". I find myself thinking about this a lot during my creative process. I am not arrogant enough to think that I am the only person who has had a certain idea, or approached an opportunity from the same angle, but I have always thought that creativity wasn't in the new but in the connections. You're not the first one to have a thought or idea, but you might be the first one to make a connection between one idea and another. In the creative process I have seen a lot of people look to other designers for inspiration. Inspiration is great, but I've always wondered about where to draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism. So when I came across this article on Creative Blog it caught my attention and resinated with me. The article asks seven industry experts their opinion on the matter and their insights are very helpful for making sure you never cross the line. One interesting point an expert, Elliott J Stocks,  brought up was, "It's virtually impossible to create entirely original designs. Almost everything we do has been informed by others' work and existing conventions. In fact, users rely on conventions to make sense of our work. Imagine a web without conventions – it'd be extremely difficult to use!"  Another expert, Jonty Sharples, believes that plagiarism happens when there is no improvement on the original work.  Dave Ellis, another expert, says, "It's good to look for inspiration, but you have to push your findings in your own direction to create something new." I couldn't agree more with these three points of view. Plagiarism is a blurry line and is especially hard to avoid in the design world (raise your hand if you've ever seen someone plagiarize someone else's work), and while I am not an expert I do have my own opinion. Plagiarism happens when you don't spend enough time on process. If you don't take the time to develop your ideas thenn it's very difficult to create something original and innovative.


I'll leave you with a question, in an open source world what does this debate mean for the future of design?

Meagan Leigh Vanderhill