Inspiration vs. Plagiarism

Pinterest is not research
Photo: iStock

I recently read an article in an industry magazine about the process and conceptual development behind the issue’s cover. The design agency and editor shared work from other designers and labeled the work “concepts.” The final cover was virtually a direct replication of one of those “concepts.” It is deeply concerning that a professional in the field cannot distinguish the difference between looking at existing work for inspiration versus copying it, which is blatant plagiarism.

There are many standards in regard to plagiarism when it comes to writing. Journalists can lose their job and their credibility if they copy another writer’s work. Yet when it comes to creating visuals, a Google image search and “let’s do something like this” has become acceptable research to some.

Just as a writer must research, draft, and develop an article, it is imperative for art directors and designers to thoroughly research, sketch, and create a unique visual solution. An image search may be part of that process, and it may include reviewing existing visual metaphors and best practice, but copying someone else’s work only serves to diminish the credibility of the creator.