Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Have I Been Validated or Violated?

Just when I thought I was starting to lose touch with what was trending, or on the verge of trending, someone comes along and copies my work. Does this make me feel validated or violated? Flattered or flattened? I go back and forth. I had hoped to never write about this, but here I am. And in this case, it's not some faceless, untouchable entity in China, but someone whose work ~I~ admire. Granted it's not a complete rip-off--copied exactly, no holds barred--but every time I look at it I see my idea, and that doesn't make it easier to deal with. I have heard some people say you only have to change a design by 30% to make it your own, but where is the appreciation for the other 70% that was kept the same?

I'm not going to add images to this post for comparison. Chances are if you follow my work, you also follow theirs, and maybe you'll notice the resemblance...have the feeling you've "seen that somewhere before"--same basic layout idea, multiple motifs lifted directly from my original, and the exact same colors. I have been in this business professionally for over 20 years, so I know this happens a lot, and it has happened to me before, though in other realms of design. And I'm not going to be all high-and-mighty and claim to never have been inspired by existing artwork (just as everything in the world inspires me). I know there's a fine line between copying someone's idea and borrowing someone else's style to make something of your own. My design has been floating around out there for two years, so perhaps I should just think mine was ahead of its time! And maybe if you saw the two designs you'd think I was overreacting, but if it bothers me, as the creator of the original, isn't that what matters?

Maybe I should be flattered this person liked the idea so much they wanted to use it. Maybe I'm just bitter because this person has much more exposure than I do and therefore will get all the credit. Did this person think I wouldn't notice or care about the extreme similarity? Maybe they didn't care. The crazy thing is, had they asked, I would have been excited to let them use my design, or I would have created something similar specifically tailored to their needs...at no cost...for a credit line.

I suppose the more designs I put out there, the more chances I will have to write about how they've been copied. Not that my work is so great that everyone would want to copy it all, but even one instance is too many.

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I originally wrote this post last night, but after sleeping on it, I realize now that I am not so much angry anymore as I am surprised. Surprised that this particular person felt he/she needed to copy my work, and surprised about which design they chose to imitate! To be honest, it has never been a bestseller, nor did I think anyone had really taken notice of it. Apparently things are going on behind the scenes I'm not aware of!

Have you ever had this happen to you? If so, how did you feel? What did you do about it? Do you have any advice for me?

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