Nothing Is Original, But You Still Have To Be Creative
“Nothing is original. Everything is a remix.” -Kirby Ferguson
If you’ve been in the advertising or creative industries for more than 5 minutes, you’ve likely heard this quote in some form or fashion. There are Ted Talks about the subject, endless articles referencing arguments for or against the statement’s validity, and just about everyone in the business has an opinion on it...including us.
The quote has two basic interpretations:
1. Everything mankind creates takes inspiration from something that came before it.
This is basically the acknowledgement that there is no such thing as reinventing the wheel. What we have to do is take the wheel, and create a car...or at least a solid cart. Maybe that wasn’t the best analogy, but you get the point. You have to build upon what came before. Add value. Add creativity. Transform what is available, and make it unique.
The key is inspiration. This isn’t an excuse to carbon copy what everyone else is doing, it’s motivation to find what inspires you, and create something jaw-dropping from it. This is what the quote is really talking about. Of course, a lot of people have bypassed this and created another meaning in it’s entirety.
2. It’s totally okay to rip off people’s work. (Spoiler: It’s not.)
Upwork. Fiverr. Design Crowd. The land of carbon copied logos in the name of making an extra five bucks. Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of real designers that create amazing work on those sites, but a large portion of people don’t. Lately, it seems like no one is willing to bunker down and really create anything creative. As an agency that employs a number of extremely talented and creative individuals, this mindset strikes a nerve with us.
For one, it’s not an ethical practice. You can’t steal someone else’s blood, sweat, and tears for your own portfolio, and call yourself a designer. For every award-winning, effective logo or design, an art director and/or graphic designer spent hours and hours creating thumbnail sketches, refining ideas, revising drafts, resizing specs, and rendering every last detail to ensure that the logo is as perfect as humanly possible. Googling “fire logo,” and ripping off someone else’s idea with just enough differences to not be legally called plagiarism devalues your work as well as the work of every other creative professional in the industry.
Being creative is a talent and a skill. Some people are born with a naturally creative mind, but everyone who works in a creative field spends a lot of time practicing and perfecting their process. Going a step further and physically turning their ideas into work on a page takes hours of training, software fees, oftentime college degrees in a certain subject… don’t be the guy to cheat those deserving artists out of the recognition and compensation they deserve.
In A World Of Carbon Copies, Be Creative
We’ll give you the first step to truly creating something unique. It’ll sound counter-intuitive, but just hear us out:
Turn. Off. Your. Computer.
Just do it. Finish reading this blog post (insert our shameless plug telling you to share this to Facebook while you’re at it), save all your important work, and hit the power button. Walk away from your desk. Take a walk through a park with a sketchbook and a pencil. Idea vomit all over a page, with every single terrible idea or design that exists inside that mind of yours.
At the end of the day, that Macbook is just another tool. A necessary tool, but a tool nonetheless. Get out of your own head, and experience the world. THAT is where true inspiration comes from, not Pinterest or Google Images or Ad Age's Award Winners.
A (Short) Letter To All The Designers:
Do the work. Put in the time. Create something that has value. For the love of all things, be creative.
Your clients will thank you. Your portfolio will thank you. Every other designer in the world that benefits from the validity of the industry will thank you, too.
A (Similarly Short) Letter to All The Clients:
Suck it up, and be willing to pay for the value you’re asking for. Exposure is not compensation. Neither is minimum wage hourly work for a logo project. Creativity takes time and money and talent. Paying $5 for a ripped off design doesn’t help your business any more than it helps the designers that spend every second of every day creating wonderful work.
You’d never offer your high-quality business product or service up for free, so why do you expect creatives to?