The Fine Line Between Copying & Drawing Inspiration

This topic is something that most designers want to address, but won’t out of fear. Both Nicole and Katelyn have had their fair share of people copying ideas and stealing design work (almost exact), and when people are addressed about things, you’ll almost always hear “I didn’t copy it, I drew inspiration from it”. Well, we’ve heard that too many times and we’re ready to clear some things up.

The online world is extremely saturated, as is the graphic design industry. We understand the immense pressure there is to be trendy yet set yourself apart, to have a unique skill yet can cover all the design bases, and to do all of this quickly in order to gain traction in the growing design world. But that doesn’t mean you need to cheat to get there. Not cool.

We wanted to write a post addressing this topic as a message to other designers or those looking to dabble with graphic design. It isn’t meant to be a jab at anyone specific, start drama, or upset anyone. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed because of quite a few reasons, so let’s dive in.

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Why you shouldn’t copy:

Design style

Each designer has their own style that they’ve niched overtime. When you “draw inspiration” or copy someone’s work, you’re essentially copying the style they’ve worked hard to create for themselves. It will also show in your own work if it isn’t something you’re comfortable doing.

Acquired skill

None of us came into this world with the skill of graphic design. Just like we had to learn how to walk or talk, we had to learn graphic design. Some of us spent endless hours teaching ourselves, and some of us spent thousands of dollars on schooling. You learn the skill by practicing it, when you steal work or copy a design you aren’t learning anything!

Makes your business look bad

The industry may be saturated, but almost everyone knows of everyone. There has been so many occasions we’ve come across a graphic that looks JUST like another bigger more established firms, or notice a blog post get posted with the same content as a blog post we had just posted a week or two prior. These things don’t go unnoticed, and it’s not like JUST other designers catch on to these things. Clients have a sixth sense...they can feel when you’re uncomfortable, not confident, or a phony.

Just not cool, ok?

It’s just NOT FREAKIN’ COOL. OK?? Graphic design is an art, and designers are almost always very emotional about their work (we know we are). It’s the biggest insult, slap in the face, and disappointment when we see this happen, and it happens daily. Not just to us, but I’m sure many designers have similar stories. We’re protective over our work. We spend a lot of time, research, and energy into the work we deliver to our PAYING clients. Don’t be that guy, don’t steal peoples work.

Ways around “drawing inspiration”

It is TOTALLY OKAY to get inspired by others’ design work. For example, seeing a logo or pattern with a leaf in it and deciding you want to incorporate a leaf into your branding is drawing inspiration. Taking that leaf and designing one that is identical or very similar, that is copying.

When we are entering the design phase of our projects, we take the ideas we came up with together and head straight to Pinterest for inspiration. We create a private board for every single project, and pin endlessly till we have curated a full board of inspo. By this point, you should have a solid plan for what you want your design to be. If not…

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

  • You could consider looking for a designer who is looking to hire an intern! There are tons of designers searching for assistants and are willing to teach them necessary skills in exchange for work.

  • You can go to YouTube, Skillshare, or any other online learning platform and watch tutorials to teach yourself.

  • You can enroll in courses or design classes in order to acquire the skills.

  • You can read blog posts on sparking creativity to help you get in the mood!

To sum things up, copying and drawing inspiration are completely different things with an extremely thin line between the two. Just, don’t do it.

What is your opinion on this? Have you experienced anything similar?


xox, katelyn & nicole

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