We have all done it. You come across a design and think: “I wish I thought of that!” Then you wonder if the design would still work if you replace wire with willow, and what if the thing that goes over now goes through, and soon you are so involved in the design process that it becomes impossible to let go of the idea.
It is usually easy to justify when you are taking inspiration from someone else’s work, but more challenging when your creative pride and hard work is used by others.
I spend most of my day coming up with new design concepts and then teaching those ideas. People often ask: “Aren’t you scared someone will steal what you are doing?” It is never easy sending my idea out in the world all on its own.
At some point you will come across something, somewhere, that you are convinced you thought of first. It helps to remember that your creative idea did not just spring from your personal well of greatness. Creativity flows like a current all around the world. Our creativity feeds on everything that our senses are exposed to. In the words of Aristotle: “It is not once, nor twice, but times without number, that the same idea makes an appearance around the world.”
Photo Caption: Love Bug Basket Design
While you are working on your next greatest idea there is someone (more likely a few someone’s) working on, or thinking about, the exact same thing. That is why trends catch on everywhere at once. Even so, it is hard for any designer to see their ideas used by others.
Here are some practical steps and guidelines to help make sense of this complex topic:
Steel yourself against stealing creativity by creating. See the result of your design process as a release, a way to make space for your next brilliant idea. Someone can’t really steal what you are doing, when you are still busy doing it. Take solace in knowing you have moved on.
Be open to inspire and be inspired. Take pride when someone redesigns one of your ideas in an unexpected way, and allow yourself to be inspired in return. Identify the nugget that makes someone else’s idea great, and entwine it with bits of your own uniqueness till it becomes a new kind of great
Always give credit. Incorporate giving credit, attribution and compliments as a personal design policy. It keeps your own work honest! You have not invested enough of yourself if your design is so close to the original that it will be embarrassing to your creative soul to give credit.
Be careful of the web. It is a common misconception that everything on the web is public property, when in fact the opposite is true. Most creative work is copyright protected by default.
Every time a designer uses someone else’s idea, you lose respect for their creative voice. Every time you use someone else’s idea, it makes it harder for you to recognize your own creativity and come up with your own ideas. It damages your ability to be original.
It gets a bit trickier to give credit if you are inspired by traditional crafts. The word “tradition” is derived from the Latin tradere or traderer, literally meaning to give for safe keeping. I love that. It means being inspired by tradition is keeping it safe for generations to come.
Christine de Beer is a Floral Artist and spends most of her time exploring interesting techniques, testing innovative products or tackling trendy floral concepts in an unusual way.