Imitation vs Inspiration

By Madelyn Miller on Jun 14, 2019

My first exposure to copying probably consisted of me tracing some sort of Disney princess as a child. I would put a piece of paper over an image I liked and shamelessly go straight over the lines until it was an exact replica. As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… But as I get further in my life as a student and designer, I have come to realize that copying, or imitation, is not the word they should be using, but rather inspiration is.

Inspiration is someone showing you a combination of their skills, which in turn has triggered an idea for your own work. Since this is an essential part of the creative process, here are some tips to fully embrace your inspirations, without imitating them!

Decide what about the piece actually inspires you. Is it the color combination in the image? The differing weights of line usage they have? Maybe it’s just the subject matter they portrayed. Either way, try taking one aspect and play around to see how it can fit into your style.

Don’t only look at art to inspire you. It is so easy to just click over to Pinterest or Behance for some fast inspiration, but I find that sometimes doing so makes me feel stuck replicating what is already there. Instead, try taking a walk outside or read an interesting article. This way you can gain some diverse inspiration without risk of copying someone’s work!

Know when it’s time to drop the idea. It’s important to not fall in love with your work. Often times your first piece is far from the final concept. If you get too attached to your work, it is easy for us designers to not see obvious similarities. Try putting your inspiration next to your work and ask a coworker or friend for their input. Then, if needed, you can put it aside and move on to the next idea!

Hopefully these tips can help you get past that creative block and get you designing some uniquely great pieces!


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