Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Whose design is it anyway?

Last night when I was painting my craft room a Tiffany blue with Kelly Wearstler-inspired stripes, I got to thinking about a blog post that I wrote back in January 2009. At that time, blogs were still new-ish, and there was no such thing as Pinterest or Tumblr or Instagram. Now that there are so many ways to both inspire and to be inspired by design, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit that blog post. I’ve updated it a bit, but the question is still the same…

Is there such a thing as a truly original design?

Can one person “own” a design?

Last week, I shared my chalk paint pumpkins with you. I created them after seeing pumpkins painted by Landee at Landee See, Landee Do and Shaunna at Perfectly Imperfect. And yesterday, I came across a pretty white bling pumpkin by Heather at Setting for Four.

pumpkin collage 2

Who came up with the idea first?
Did we all copy each other?
Can any one person lay claim to the design?

When you think about it, every design is based on another design. We take a design that we see and like, and then create our own interpretation of it, putting our own spin on it and giving it our own personal touches. This is my home office:

office 2

I painted the letters on the walls because I’m a glutton for punishment ;-)

office 1

No, I painted the letters because I saw this nursery on Rate My Space and loved it! {Unfortunately, I can’t find the original post on RMS, so I can’t give proper credit to the creator of this room.}

nursery-wide1

The inspiration for the letters on the nursery wall came from this bedding from DwellStudio {it doesn’t seem to be available anymore}:

dwell bedding

And this bedding was inspired by… well, I guess the alphabet. The history of the alphabet started in ancient Egypt over 4,700 years ago. So does that mean the ancient Egyptians get credit for these three alphabet-inspired designs?

Here's another example. This is our upholstered bed:

bed

My husband and I came up for the plans for it and built it. We based it on the Wallace upholstered bed from Restoration Hardware

wallace bed

…and this bed that Sarah Richardson designed for a bedroom on Sarah’s House {season 1}:

sh bed

There are obvious similarities between the three beds, but differences as well. All three have a nail head trim detail. The headboard corner cut-outs and legs on our bed are based on Sarah’s bed. But Sarah used a bold patterned fabric on her bed and we used a solid brown velvet, similar to the Wallace bed.

So who owns this design? I say all of us – and none us. The beds I used as inspiration for our bed were likely inspired by other beds. In fact, Sarah had to change her original headboard design because the original wouldn’t fit up the stairs to the bedroom. Which is an example of how a design evolves as you move through a project.

Nobody can say that a design is 100% {or even 99%} theirs. Every design is a collaboration of people and ideas – from pictures in books and magazines, TV shows, blogs, a friend’s house, stores, hotels, nature… design inspiration is all around us and in all of us.

That’s what I think – what do you think?

I’ll be showing you my new-and-improved craft room walls soon, complete with all my sources of inspiration. I want to put together a little painting tutorial for you to go with it :-)

20 comments:

  1. You bring a quote to my mind "There's nothing new under the sun".

    I think all we do is work a little of our own personalities into these projects and designs. I can remember my mom doing most of the paint treatments and crafts I now see flying around the net, we've updated the colours and textures but the original techniques are the same.

    Love every photo you've featured & that subway art wall of yours is magnificent!

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    1. I agree Anne, there really are no *new* ideas - more like new spins on existing ideas.

      I can't take credit for the subway art wall, that's a picture from Restoration Hardware :-)

      Kelly

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  2. Does there need to be someone who owns a design?

    I know there is a history in the music industry of people who sue people who appear to have copied their songs, though often I bet the person didn't even know they were copying - just had a tun in their heads and didn't realize where it came from.

    Aside from bragging rights - being able to say "hey, that was me who started that", like whoever wrote the "yada yada yada" in Seinfeld - I don't think it is a big deal whose design it was.

    Designers who feel copied - why not take it as a compliment?! Someone liked your design so much that they incorporated it into their idea!

    Art had been around a long time... you didn't invent it... Take a breath and find something else to worry about, like are you making the world a better place... do you have meaningful relationships in your life... are you working on your health... Who owns what is pretty unimportant when you look at the big picture. [And who first coined "the big picture"?!]

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    1. Good points, Rona :-) And I have no idea who coined the big picture ;-)
      I agree, having someone take your design and incorporate it into theirs is a compliment, not something to get upset over. There are far bigger problems in the world than someone using the same wallpaper you used ;-)
      Kelly

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  3. A really awesome post Kelly. We always ask the same questions in the photography industry too. Locations, poses, image processing styles - it's all a very gray area as to who came up with what first or who, if anyone, can lay claim to anything! I like the idea of it belonging to none of us and all of us. As a creative, my mind never completely stops looking for inspiration everywhere around me. Even times when I think I may have come up with an original idea I can never really be 100% certain its my own. Inspiration is everywhere...I embrace it :)

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    1. Exactly Danielle! We're surrounded by inspiration everywhere we go. But we don't all necessarily interpret inspiration the same way - it's fun to see how different people interpret the same thing in their own ways :-)
      Kelly

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  4. What a great post, Kelly. We all learn and grow and form attachments to so many different ideas, styles, and designs over time. Ultimately, I suppose it's how we put it all together that makes something special - although none of it may be entirely "unique." Your office and bedroom look fabulous!!!

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    1. Thanks Kristie :-) I think every design is unique and special because we all put things together differently, in a way that appeals to each of us :-)
      Kelly

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  5. Gosh, something I've never thought of before! Brings up lots of points of view. I came up with an idea the other day, which I thought was original, but yesterday I saw someone else had done it.
    Now I'm questioning myself - did I perhaps see that idea in a different form and thought I was being original? Haha.
    But, I must say your painted pumpkins do make me want to paint my own ones - I'll give you credit !

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    1. Hahahah! Hey, I'm happy to have inspired you to paint your own pumpkins - that's what it's all about, inspiring and being inspired by each other :-)
      Even if your idea came from an existing idea, seeing it from your perspective already makes it a different idea that's uniquely yours :-)
      Kelly

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  6. I've always maintained that, "it's already been done before." No matter how unique an idea becomes, I believe somewhere in there the idea has been inspired from another time and place, a component, a flourish, a feeling in the flair... One may not know it, or recognize it, but I bet there's a connection somewhere. It's what you do with it in becoming uniquely your own that matters, not that it's been done. I think it always comes back to, what came first, the chicken, or the egg?

    I love your office space, and it doesn't look anything like a nursery!!!

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  7. Yes, it's very true that elements in design or design ideas, concepts, products are all a matter of inspiration from x, y, z. THe mere fact that any of us takes something we see and like and then recreates it in our own way, or with our own spin, makes design so very flexible. Great post Kelly. I hope the painting is coming along well. (Diane from out west)

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  8. All variations on a theme with each person adding their own little piece of originality and they get to "own" the idea or concept for a short time till another clever person comes along build on it. It's like Chinese whispers, the basic message starts out and changes along the way with additions and subtractions, for better or for worse !!

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  9. Great post Kelly and so true that no one really owns a design. Once you put it out there, it can be used for inspiration for another creative person and another and another and another.... I think that's the beauty of sharing and everyone's will be somewhat different from the original. As most of your commenters said, I get inspiration from everywhere, even fungi :) It is important to notice the beauty around you and celebrate it by using it as inspiration!

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  10. Wow Kelly! I am flattered that you featured my Easy Bling Pumpkins in your post! Thank you so much! I love this conversation and agree completely with you, no one can own creativity or inspiration! Thank you so much for your sweet comments you left on my blog. It is so nice to meet a new blogger especially a Canadian one and one that lives in Ottawa too! We just moved to Ottawa this July and love it! I love your blog and all of your designs, you are a very talented interior decorator and am your newest follower! Have a great weekend :) Heather

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this post. I personally think that designs are constantly being recycled and to be quite honest I think its flattering when people get inspired by certain design and recreate a similar look. I guess that's when you know you're good at something and you're able to inspire someone else. As long as they credit the person who they got the inspiration from, I think its perfectly fine.

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  12. Interesting question Kelly, and I agree with you. With so many images floating by us these days, it's tough to even determine if you thought of something yourself or if you saw it somewhere else. Not that I think it really matters- everyone has their own style and puts their own spin on things.

    Oh, and by the way, I love your office- those painted letters are amazing! And the ceiling too!

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  13. IMO, designs are something like recipes aren't they? It never fails to amaze me that there are people who do not want to share the latter even though it was their Great Grandma's to begin with and God only knows where she got it from ... winks! In conclusion unless an individual has solely invented something, I would hope they would have the intelligence to patent it otherwise they may as well suck it up and accept the old adage 'great minds think alike'.
    -Brenda-

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    1. Sharing the knowledge is good for everyone! And I agree, why are some people so protective of recipes?! Just like design, two people can follow the same recipe and end up with very different results. Again, it comes down to personal interpretation :-)
      Kelly

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  14. great post, sometimes after having a great idea... I will be going through magazines and find a similar idea pictured in print... I always say to myself, I knew that was a great idea... I'm good... I figure if its already done it must have been right...lol

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