Graphic Design Rips Offs or Inspiration?

A very interesting article that I read recently from Just Creative Design on how you draw the fine line between Plagiarism and Inspirations. How do you define and separate from one another? I think that is a common question and problem encountered by most designers.

I personally need inspirations all the time. But my inspirations can be from anything and anywhere. It does not necessary come from a source of another designer. It can be from a historical painting, a tree in a park, the expression on my mom’s face, the joke from my boss or even the hash tags from my twitter feed. Though, cliché but sky really is the limit. It depends heavily on how detail-oriented of a person or designer you are, to notice symbols or elements that are not obvious to the eye.

I define plagiarism as copying and rip-offs to the most obvious sense. It has no other twists or extensions from the original and the result is at its surface level only. Inspiration for me, on the other hand, is a lot deeper. It involves taking one small piece of an element and adding your own touch and style on another area that may not have been done before. In the end, it also needs to make sense. Why was it done this way? What was the reason behind it? When using or “borrowing” a design/style, it has to serve a purpose on your work and not just because it looks cool and pretty. To put it in an example, let’s say if I were to do a poster for a Pin up party. I would probably apply the graphical style or font styles of the era to draw the connections while adding my own modern twists and design aesthetics. It wouldn’t make sense in this case to use a different style since it has a very distinctive time reference. That to me is inspiration, the style inspired me on the design approach to create elements or content of my own. If it was to be plagiarized, it would be picking up a poster in the archive and done it in the exactly the same way.

Of course, there are also times when you looked at something you thought is really clever and the idea or concept popped back up awhile later subconsciously, and you thought you created the idea yourself. But even then, when those time come, the work that you’ve created will already be different because you’ve “washed” it in your head. Your work will then have your own style and flare than as if you were to photocopy off side by side.

Image Credit: francesca iannaccone