On Integrity in Creativity

As I expand and explore the creative world of art, illustration, and graphic design, I realize so much more the horrible cost a rip-off product or using uncredited inspiration or source material can have on its original creator. So many times, especially recently, huge corporations (ie. Zara, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Cody Foster to name a few) have come under fire for directly stealing the work of smaller, independent artists and designers, and selling them in mass amounts, making bank on someone else's idea.

Then there is the smaller scale, young designers and artists emulating the techniques and subjects of renowned designers and artists, exploring their own style and what interests them about the work of others, but publicly and claiming their name on the work.

With the larger corporations, there is absolutely no excuse. They have such an incredible influence (and budget) that they should be able to collaborate with the work of artists and designers that they wish to feature as products in their store. They could be creating such a positive situation, benefiting themselves, the designers, and their customers, but instead, they chose to blatantly steal the work of others and mass produce what they claim as their own products, depreciating the value of originality and personality in the original creator's work.

While talking about contemporaries, particularly younger creatives who are coming into their own respective industries and establishing their own platforms online, the line between 'stolen' and 'inspired' often seems blurry. In particular, with the creation of social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and Tumblr, the idea of creating a personal brand for a creative and their respective work has come into play. It is based on the same ideas of marketing for an established brand or company (and has quite a long history as well, tied mostly to the practice photography), but appears more personal and individualized because the brand is all about you and not necessarily focused entirely on what you produce - it's a package deal. In some cases, this leads to the idealization of a person's life and work, putting people in a mindset that would naturally lead to an impulse to imitate.

In this case, I believe the fault does lie with the consumer-creator. It's fantastic to gather influence from outside sources and to look at and appreciate other people's work. It is not fantastic, however, to use their ideas as your own, unless through appropriation, you express an entirely new idea or perspective through referencing another's work - but that wouldn't be the same as simply claiming the style or subject matter of someone's established work for yourself.

It's a very difficult subject to address without causing harm and pointing blame at unintended targets, namely new, young creatives who are exploring their field and taking in vast amounts of information about their contemporaries or seniors, creating 'inspired' celebrations of the work by those established professionals. I believe that Fran Menses speaks very well on Imitations, Copycats, and Art Theft, and the differences between them, explaining each facet of this issue with detail and consideration of both sides.

image: Death to Stock, edited

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