A Fine Line: Inspiration or Imitation?
Today Erin from Design For Mankind is here to talk to us on a topic that I asked her to write about because I thought she’d have a lot to say on the matter and she does! I think her words just may encourage a good discussion here today so I invite you to grab a cup of tea, sit back, and tune in to Erin’s message below — and be sure to add your comment to the mix, too! Take it away, Miss E!
Call it what you will: visual plagiarism, hacks, or sheer knock-offs. However you slice it, an increasingly saturated art/design community is becoming a feeding ground for inspiration? or is it imitation?
I recently read an article in Harper’s Bazaar about the inspiration behind today?s fashion designers. Many designers mentioned historical figures such as Napoleon, Carmen Miranda and [no joke] Minnie Mouse.
And I can?t help but wonder what exactly dear Minnie Mouse would think if she knew her look was being imitated. I can only imagine she?d hijack Goofy?s wagon and skitter on over to Zac Posen?s studio to give him a prompt speaking to.
Yet can we really control when inspiration sets in? Not at all. What we can control is what we do with that inspiration. Do we carbon copy the design? Or do we tastefully implement elements from the designs that we, ourselves, cherish? [And for the record, Zac Posen?s inspiration was quite tasteful in fact!]
Of course, this is how a trend is born. We certainly didn?t don gladiator sandals this summer for comfort; the Greek and Roman influences were found to be inspirational by a few key designers. And that?s perfectly fine. What?s not perfectly fine is an intentional lifting of originality. I mean truly, how odd would we look like running around in togas AND gladiator sandals?
I’m saddened at how often this happens in our creative community. Rather than lifting each other up and encouraging originality, I fear that we’ve become envious of the instant gratification that the Internet often provides. It seems that one good design and a few press mentions can skyrocket an artist into serious success. Just how far will we go to present that “one good design?”
It breaks my heart to see an unoriginal piece. To me, a unique design has life. It has passion. And it becomes beautiful only when you can truly see the artist’s spirit behind his/her work. Thus, when we attempt to borrow elements of someone else’s work, the result is often never quite right. Much like a person without a genuine spirit can be spotted like a sore thumb, so, too, can an artist without an individualistic nature.
And you know what? Bloggers, we’re to blame as well. How often have we posted material that originated from somewhere else, only to (a) forget, (b) refuse or (c) fail to credit our source?
Indeed, there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and although I hate to create additional boundaries in art, I’d like to see us all work harder to find our true passions. I quite understand that many of our inspirations derive from the same source, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. The problem lies in our intentions. Are we creating something that we truly believe in? Or are we creating a spin-off of something that already exists simply because it sells?
From now on, let’s embrace the community that we’ve helped to build. Let’s encourage, congratulate and experience alongside of each other, not across from. I hope that someday we can each feel proud of the talents we’ve been given and showcase these unique gifts in beautiful, original ways.
Until then, know that imitation? It’s not such a form of flattery after all.
What are your thoughts on this topic? When does inspiration become imitation? What is the difference between inspired by and ripped off? Your thoughts?
- All text by Erin from Design For Mankind.
(images from evaxebra)