At what point does inspiration become imitation?

Aaron Horkey
When someone notices.

Adam Tickle
When you put the imitation next to the original and the imitation looks like a bad version.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Inspiration is fine; imitation is bad. This is only a problem when we kid ourselves – we say we are being ‘inspired’; but really we are imitating.

Andrew Blauvelt
When it becomes to specific. I try to be inspired by ideas and ambitions not designs (formally speaking).

Dan McCarthy
I’m not sure. It’s a fine line. I think if you see a piece of art that you can relate to, I think it’s ok to make something similar as long as you make it your own. If you just copy it, that’s not good.

Ed Fella
It’s the opposite. At what point does imitation become inspiration? You start in the culture that you’re working in. That’s your imitation. Imitation becomes inspiration, then you have something.

Evan Leake
I think its ok to be inspired by someone. However, I don’t think many people get very far if they don’t develop an aesthetic of their own. If you constantly copy the work of others, you never push yourself. When I see something I like and want to make a piece that has a certain look, I study the work and then think to myself, “how would this person handle this?” Then I take the ideas I’ve learned from my studies and apply it to my work. This makes it so that the piece is truly mine, and it rarely looks exactly like the technique I’m trying to mimic, but it was built with similar aesthetic “rules”.

Eric Karjaluoto
To be honest, this doesn’t particularly worry me. Design isn’t a terribly “original” practice. We’re all working to communicate with others, and as such we use icons, symbols and treatments that are commonly accepted. The aim here isn’t necessarily to be unique; rather, we want to effectively reach the audience.

Experimental Jetset
That fully depends on the intention of the designer. Is she/he really out to make a exact copy of something that was created earlier, or is the intent to tell a completely new story using some already-existing elements?

Regardless of the answer, we do believe that there is no such thing as an actual copy. In the act of imitation, there is always something added. In copying, there is always an element of transformation, of recontextualization. This is inevitable.

To better understand cultural phenomena, we often look at rock culture, because it is such a perfect scale model of modernism in general. And when we look at rock culture, we see that innovation is often rooted in imitation. Take for example The Beatles, who started out as four white kids, literally copying (covering) black rhythm & blues, music that had been around for decades before The Beatles were even born. And yet, in the process of translation, from black culture to white culture, from the US to the UK, something was added: these old musical forms gained new meanings, new dimensions.

And even though The Beatles, after becoming aware of this effect, started to become more and more innovative, they have always stayed true to the principle of imitation. In fact, as late as 1973, Chuck Berry sued Lennon over the composition of ‘Come Together’ (1969), which was basically a rip-off of Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ (1955). Lennon admitted, and the case was settled out of court.

To some extent, inspiration is the reinvention/interpretation/disfiguration of things/elements that are already out there.

Flip Flop Flyin
When you don’t add anything of your own.

All the time. Especially when people are in their early learning years and don’t exactly know themselves, but if you are just imitating then you are part of a team and not exactly making a mark, maybe that’s ok. Maybe that is the future.

George Lois
Most so-called inspiration is imitation. But it’s not imitation if it’s a brilliant take-off of the inspiration. Got it?

Hula Hula
When it ends up not being you.

Ian Stevenson
Inspiration definitely plays a part in creation of ideas but there’s too much imitation going on and people are getting away with it. Maybe a list should be made and the public can decide.

Jeff Domke
I have no idea what that statement means. Imitating other people or ideas is a good thing. Inspiration is vague term that people use to sidestep the delineation between creation and imitation. I recommend avoiding inspiration — either create or copy.

Justin Ouellette
The moment you start feeling guilty.

Lance Wyman
When you lose your own point of view.

Milton Glaser
I wrote a long essay on the subject of the preceding 2 questions.

Please Let Me Design
When people decide to do the same without even trying to understand what the job is about. When people copy just to do the same.

Rick Valicenti
That is like encouraging a chef not to cook with tomatoes because it has been done before. Or, to ask a musician not to blow the same notes through his trumpet that Miles Davis blew through his. We are all in a continuum of human condition and expression. I often know that I am in conversation with those who came before me and often imagine beginning my work precisely where their work left off. I see this as dialog not imitation. Led Zeppelin or the Stones would not have been have made the original music they made if their nod to the American blues was not consciously referential.

Wolfgang Weingart
Never thought about it.

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Fill/Stroke is a collection of three individuals who have always been good at collecting content, but never really good at sharing it. We formed in early 2008, and have been honored to interview some of the greatest designers of our time.

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