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On Copying and Stealing Designs

The notion on the great artist, Pablo Picasso's quote, "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal" is lost on many. And revolving around the graphic designer circles is the quote "Good artists copy, great artists steal" known as Picasso's quote, still. Anyway, it might just be safe to assume that Picasso have not quoted this words exactly but he did have an "expert's assessment and statement" regarding copying and stealing art styles and techniques.

The artistic world was widely influenced by Picasso, being the first living artist to be featured in the Louvre. Many have their own opinion and interpretation as to what he really meant on the quote. With the onset of digital technology and digital art, it is understandable that the modern Web graphic design also has an interpretation for it.

In an article by Cameron Moll, the Creative Director for IDI at he had endeavored to uncover a possible explanation in three levels of design. These three levels involves some aspect of copying or stealing, shows increasing design maturity, adapts Picasso's quote to modern graphic design. The interpretation by Moll was segmented in such a way that do not imply that they are the only levels of design. it is but a guide to assist the improvement of designers' design and lead to their maturity with regards to copying and stealing designs.

The first level explains a well-imparted principle of starting out by copying other well-created designs. Web designing could relate this principle from the advice of Web copywriting guru, Gerry McGovern for writers: having a model for the kind of article that they need to do, dissect and analyze them and copy.

Copying, not creating have surprising positive effect, too, that of maintaining conventionality. There's a familiar and intuitive effect for the users when most sites have essentially the same layout and information architecture by most sites. A Web designing career involve time constraints and budget limitations so much so that copying is almost mandatory.

The second level explains that the best resources where designers can steal are from themselves. They can tap into loads of their past designs that were never used or completed, or from their designs that have already been successful in order to reinvent a new design. This kind of stealing is quite helpful in molding their own distinctive design style to use as a selling point for clients.

The third level involves stealing from discreet sources. Albert Einstein is noted for quoting, "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." For designers the easiest way to do this is to use sources already hidden. Even great artists can't be accused of stealing if their rare jewels of inspiration are from lost, bypassed, forgotten ideas which they have successfully incorporated with their own distinctive style. To graphic designers, they have to really research and rummage for the necessary unused and forgotten ideas applicable for their design.

One must be careful in copying from well-known sources, though. It is best to copy the inspiration and not the exact output. To fully summarize, all graphid designers out there, there's no problem in copying, even Picasso, in one of his quotes told about the necessity of copying. However, it is best to be careful in what you copy and how you copy it.

Lala C. Ballatan is a 26 year-old Communication Arts graduate, with a major in Journalism. Right after graduating last 1999, she worked for one year as a clerk then became a Research, Publication and Documentation Program Director at a non-government organization, which focuses on the rights, interests and welfare of workers for about four years.

Book reading has always been her greatest passion -- mysteries, horrors, psycho-thrillers, historical documentaries and classics. She got hooked into it way back when she was but a shy kid.

Her writing prowess began as early as she was 10 years old in girlish diaries. With writing, she felt freedom - to express her viewpoints and assert it, to bring out all concerns -- imagined and observed, to bear witness.

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