Unnecessary Paranoia?

In terms of originality with designs, has anyone here ever been accused of copying or taking too much inspiration from another design/er? Or worried that a design they think of may already exist? I spend a lot of time looking through the internet to see if a form I thought of or concept already exists somewhere on the internet. Maybe too much time and effort to the point that I feel like it all exists (which of course is silly). I sometimes can’t even decide whether something I quickly sketched out is from my own thought or just something I once saw on the internet that resurfaced in my consciousness.

I feel like through my endless hours of perusing design blogs/portfolios I have seen various talented designers that end up with eerily similar results for objects/same area even. So does anyone who searches as much as I do ever call these people out or do they simply acknowledge that there is a convergence of design to some extent?

Is this a case of ignorance is bliss for some designers? They have an idea, do minimal research then go ahead with development of their concept.

Is the fact that each designer ended with similar designs ignored because their approaches were different then presented in a unique way?

Or maybe I am just crazy and need to get outside.

It happens. Everything comes from somewhere. Have you ever read about the invention of the radio? Essentially and American team of engineers and an Italian team of engineers developed radio technology at about the same time… across continents, pre-internet. If that can happen than for sure two people with similar cultural influences, a similar design problem, and a similar set of manufacturing and distribution parameters can definitely accidentally design something similar.

I think the key is to keep on keeping on, and definitely get outside, both literally and figuratively. Look outside of the design world for inspiration as much as possible… and cool of :slight_smile:

What’s the quote? Good artists create, great artist steal? Appropriation is important in all creative disciplines. Nothing is really new. It’s how you take an idea to the next level, improve it, combine it with others, find new applications, etc. Just because someone designed something cylindrical doesn’t mean you can do it. Change materials, scale, applications, function.

Spend less time thinking about overthinking and more doing.


I had the fortunate opportunity of being taught design theory and history by a non designer, art and design historian who was very interested and knowledgable about this sort of thing.

He proposed the idea of a collective consciousness, which leads to the sort of situation that yo is talking about with the wireless.We as a global society; while having different cultures, are becoming more and more connected.

Sure, in australia, we have kangaroos, hot summers and a relaxed attitude, but we still have McDonald’s restaurants with Eames replica chairs, Coca cola and BMW’s driving down the street.

Because of this connectivity, which has been around for a long time - I’m talking the expanse of the british empire into India, Africa and eventually the US and Australia; We have a collective mind in humanity which steers in directions that the pack sees as the way forward.

Saying this though, I also remember my design education and learning about Dreyfuss, Eames, Colombo, Sottsass, Jacobsen, Saarinen, Rams, Ives, Newson, Behar, Rashid etc etc…

Know what has come before, definitely, but don’t be afraid of your ideas. They come from the collective consciousness but you decide where they end up.

a little perspective for you:

Here is another one.

The iconic Honeywell thermostat designed by Dreyfus. The also iconic Nest. The newest Honeywell.

The nest is obviously not a copy. The other two are set at 72. The nest is 74;) totally different.


Thanks for the responses. Over thinking is just a bad habit of mine. I am familiar with many of the examples given so I know that inspiration from earlier sources is very common. I just want to turn off the voice in my head saying “oh you already saw that kind of design in the same application somewhere, best move on and forget about that” since that kills a lot of my creative motivation. The desire to be truly original is hard to overcome.

Has anyone here ever called out another person or company that stole one of their designs or was simply too close for comfort? Design patent laws are weird and intellectual property is something I will probably learn more about, but it is something that I am sure every designer will eventually deal with.

At any rate, I am going through bad creative block so just chatting with creative types helps me at least get negative thoughts out.

It used to happen all the time on here. "So and so stole my design… ". Chances are they just came up with something similar. Turns out e are not the snowflakes we thought.

I spent a lot of the early part of my career trying to be original, but a lot of times that just ends up in ugly. It is easy to be original if you go into that territory (I’m looking at you Lexus grille)… now I spend a lot of my time just trying to make the most functional and innovative thing I can the most beautiful I can. The innovation doesn’t come from the form, it comes from the way it works. The function of the form is to communicate that (+ brand language signals + cultural references).

When you do a survey of what people consider the most beautiful objects in the world you start to see a lot of commonalities. It is not as subjective as we think. There may not be hard and fast rules but there are definite zones and hot spots. Newness fades, beauty endures.

They have and it was handled childish. http://www.oxo.com/quirkyresponse.aspx

Hi Mroh11

I’ve heard it said that at any one time there are at least 7 other people elsewhere in the world working on the same thing as you.

I think just about every product designer I know peruses design websites, blogs, looks through books and design magazines on an almost daily basis, to inspire and inform. So anyone who has been designing for a few years will have seen a vast amount of imagery, that they subconsciously or consciously draw on when designing (you have to know who your market competitors are for starters). So I (and probably many others) like yourself have definitely had similar thoughts and feelings about how it all already exists.

A year or two ago I designed a chopping board that was similar to (inspired by) the Joseph and Joseph Chop2pot chopping board, then recently on the Core front page I saw Polygons Measuring spoon by Rahul Agarwal. They are all similar and all have worth (mine the least), we all get inspiration from somewhere and it wouldn’t stop me trying to design another similar chopping board, because I’d want to try and improve on it.

Above: Joseph and Joseph Chop2pot

Above: My attempt

Above: Polygons Measuring Spoon by Rahul Agarwal

Just because its been done before, doesn’t mean it cant be done again but better. For example, say you are designing a dining chair for a furniture company,
There are many hard points that must be kept, (to be functional) the chair has to have a seat and back at certain heights. So you are in many respects putting your style on to something already very familiar, and your style is going to be very similar to many others (we all follow trends) and also the company has a brand style that they would like you to respect/strengthen and the public are following a trend that you have to be aware of so your design fits into their home etc.
Even if you tried to ignore all of the above when designing a chair, no matter how radical your chair design is, because of the hard points, there will be commonality between it and many other chairs, you just wont be able to avoid it. Should this prevent you from designing another chair? (just like me designing a chopping board) Of course not. Because even if what you design looks very similar to those before it, you can still make it different and not just different for differents sake, but in some way better. Is it easier to transport, uses more environmentally conscious materials, addresses a users need (easier to clean), is easier to disassemble for recylcling or does it employ local craftsmen with skills that would otherwise be lost or will a percentage of profits from each sale be sent to a third world country to help a community there? My point which I know I’m delivering a bit ham fisted is would you not design that chair, that had 4 legs, a seat and a back
rest that was better for the environment and helped a community in Africa, just because you had seen another chair with 4 legs a seat and a back?

Also (reading between the lines) it sounds like this feeling, that it’s all been done before,could stop you from putting pencil to paper (or stylus to drawing app), because you think of the design in your head and before sketching it and dismiss it, because you know it looks like something similar. This is like looking at clouds - Everything looks like something!

I think you have to identify who you are designing for and why you design. As an extreme example, (and sticking with chairs), the brief is to design a chair for a 30 stone man who can’t leave his house and won’t answer the door. He orders everything from the internet, so your chair has to be mail order and fit through a letter box, it also has to be really easy to assemble from flat pack as his fingers can’t manage fiddly screws. Added to this for example are your design beliefs - you want to design more environmentally friendly furniture. So even if the chair you design from that brief with your beliefs looks aesthetically similar to other chairs, it will be very different. Then if you do an internet search, you are probably eventually going to find another chair that looks similar to yours - it’s inevitable, but even if you do, the likely hood that it’s been designed to the same brief with similar beliefs is very slim (unless this 30 stone man is emailing the same brief to 100’s of designers) :wink:

You must accept that you cannot be truly original

Hope you get out of the rut soon. PT

Unnecessary? That’s what THEY want you to think.

I worry less about copying than I worry about doing a good job. I think sometimes, the best design is to bring something to a new market. The Mazda Miata brought the British sportscar to a new market. The iPhone brought touch interface to the masses (NEC and other companies had these phones in overseas markets for at least 2 years before the iPhone). It’s much harder than we think too. What part of the design do you keep, what parts do you change? Do I push management to approve an entirely new concept? Do I really understand how this works or how it is made?

Put it this way, sometimes I do something only to remember a short time later I already did almost the same thing a few years earlier.
I didn’t mean to steal my own design, sorry self. Guess I’ll move onto something else.

Not sure who had the first part of this as their signature on theses boards awhile ago, but I always thought it was a good quote. As someone who also has a tendency to over-think things, it got me away from the whole analysis paralysis issue, and focused on how I would execute whatever idea I had whether it was 100% original or not.

“No idea’s original, there’s nothin’ new under the sun, it’s never what you do, but how it’s done…” - Nas

When all else is equal, if your goal isn’t to copy, there will most likely be some variation based on style, process, capability etc.

Another question is how fundamental is the thing you are worried may be borrowed to each solution. I have had cases where I was working on something and arrived at a form out of user experience utility that was similar to something that existed where the prior form and use was different and was either more for structure, or aesthetic. There were big enough differences in both form and use (and I knew my intent and that I hadn’t actively pursued the pre-existing form) that I felt very good about the solution.