Good artists copy; great artists steal. – Pablo Picasso
Everyone knows Picasso said this. Or maybe it was, “art is theft”.
It’s so well known in fact that it’s been enshrined in a well known design book by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist.
But you know what’s coming.
Picasso didn’t say that.
It’s not even the sort of thing he would have said, if you know anything about him. Picasso was a genius; with Georges Braque he practically invented modern art as we know it. He was the most relentlessly and ruthlessly unique and original artistic voice of the twentieth century; the idea that he would have endorsed plagiarism is pretty funny.
So where does this idea that all art and design is plagiarism come from?
The answer is most likely simple: we live in a time where creative processes are being streamlined in response to the internet’s voracious appaetite for content. Photography used to be an in-depth craft which required baths of chemicals and darkened rooms, but now we carry the whole process from lens to gallery in our pockets. Pantone books are a goner. Rubylith film and bromides have gone the way of the dinosaur. The design process is a natural target for optimisation and that’s given birth to everything from 99Designs to a million tutorial videos on YouTube*.
*and if you think you can get a really great design for 20 bucks and learn graphic design in 22 minutes then I applaud your optimism.
And let’s be clear: the act of taking inspiration and influence from existing work is certainly a part of the design process. It’s called synthesis and in noth its conscious and unconscious forms it’s vitally important. But it’s very, *very* far from all of it. If you’re interested you can read more in my main articles about design thinking – synthesis is part of the invention phase.
Now read this…
What happens when they ask you to do the one thing you always said you wouldn’t? How far will you really go for your ideals?
The future belongs to the interesting people.
The L word, business and people who just don’t think emotions are appropriate.
Brands grow old but they need to do it gracefully and with style.
Or look at this…