How-I-learned-to-steal

Lets start by saying, nothing is original. Everything that has already been done and everything to follow will forever be a remix.

Once you get past this mental roadblock, you will be a step closer to being in a mindset that allows you to create work that is unique, work that carries your very own signature. When you are a young artist, you look to those who inspire you, and if you are ever in a place where you question your motives as to why you ever chose to go down whatever path it may be, you look to those people who inspired you as a reason to why you are doing what you do.

I was in this situation when I first started designing, I had many artists that influenced my design decisions and processes. I loved many different styles and would seek to replicate their style in my work. I wanted their work to become my own. I wanted to embody everything about their work. This is exactly where many young designers would start. And Im sure, as a young designer, or novice starting in design, you have found yourself encompassing this mindset too, its natural.

This is where you will fail to grow as an artist. You are straight copying your inspiration, when you should steal from them.

Now, when I say steal, I don’t mean this in a bad sense, its a great thing. To steal means you encompass, you adopt. Their mindset, their process, their style, whatever trait it is about the work or artists that inspire you, mould it, make it your own. Steal things that truly resonate with you, this way it will help you craft your own unique style, creating something that is authentic to you. It will establish recognisability within your work. This will attract clients that will want your style, because it is unique to you, you have developed it, crafted it, and are recognised by it.

Think of all the artists you follow on Instagram and on Facebook. You follow them for a reason, it’s because they have a style, you know them for that style, they have honed and crafted this for years, thousands of hours of work. These artists with be consistent with their work, thats why you followed them. They have stolen ideas and methodologies from their inspiration, moulded it to become their own, whether it be a process, a vision, or in productivity, anything. They were in the exact situation that you were in at one stage.

Here are a couple of points that may help you steal:

  • Carry a notebook – as a designer/creative, this should be instilled in you anyway. However, I mean all the time, just have some paper and a pen with you wherever you are. Some of my best ideas come to me while on the train, waiting in line, out for coffee. You never know when inspiration will strike. You may overhear a conversation that sparks off a thought, or an ad on a billboard that inspires a design.
  • Create a digital mood board – this allows you to gather artwork that inspires you, if ever you have a mental block or are stuck for some inspiration, open it up for instant idea generation. This will also be the work you like to look at, work that you absorb and is thrilling for you. You would be surprised with what you can come up with when all of your favourite artists work is along side each other.

Im sure by now, you realise that by stealing, I’m not talking about passing someone else’s work off as your own. Im talking about ideas, mindsets, and values. Look to your heroes for inspiration and see what inspires them.

“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism” – William Ralph Inge