Got a good idea? That’s great. But you’re probably not the first person to think of it. And that’s the harsh but true reality in a world of instant sharing – a double-edged sword, if you like.
And being impaled on this sword lately are a few well-known brands. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) caused a bit of a stir when one of their recent posters resembled a design by Tom Anders Watkins.
Dentsu Malaysia – the agency responsible – used a derivative of Watkins’ design to promote WWF’s conservation campaign. Once overlapped, the similarities are hard to ignore.
It’s not the first time an organisation has done this. I’ve followed Sam Larson – a freelance designer – for about two years now, and both the quantity and quality of his art is unbelievable. Seeing his hard work used without permission would have really grated him. A piece Larson drew two years ago found its way to Forever 21’s bottomless pit of stolen art (they’ve been sued over 50 times for the same thing). The design was then sold on the brand’s website, showing an almost exact copy apart from a few added lines. Ground-breaking.
Larson took to social media, where Forever 21 declined to comment due to “pending litigation”. Though the issue wasn’t resolved, Larson gained a lot of respect for calling out the fashion giant, and they hopefully think twice before poaching art again.
Not even artists themselves are innocent when it comes to plagiarism. Madonna has likened stealing material to “artistic rape” and “a form of terrorism”. So when Danny Quirk’s paintings were used in her Rebel Heart tour without him knowing or giving permission, she looked slightly hypocritical. The only change to his images is Madonna’s face pasted on top.
Botching Quirks’ art like that when a kid could Photoshop better. If you’re going to steal someone’s work, at least do them the courtesy of avoiding Microsoft Paint. After coming under fire from tweets, angry emails, and probably a letter or two via pigeon post, the whole issue just blew over.
So why is it that brands can’t refrain from stealing others’ work? Do they not have thousands of dollars and people at their disposal to come up with something better? At the very least, they should credit the artist. And why stop there? Some of the most beautiful ads I’ve seen are a collaboration between artist and agency.
In the rough and tumble world of advertising, creativity, and design – no idea is truly original. We all know that. So where do we draw the line? More than one person can have the same idea, but I think the execution is where it becomes original.
While interning as a Creative at BCM, I learnt fairly early on that coming up with an idea that’s already been done isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s just part of the process. Whether you go on to put a new spin on it, or invent a new idea entirely, embrace it and it’ll free your mind up for better solutions. I’ve done it more often than I’d like to admit – but if you push on and use it as inspiration, your final outcome will benefit greatly.
Creativity is the key to originality, but you can’t have creativity without inspiration. I reckon it’s our job to collaborate and inspire each other to create something truly unique.
That’s where real creativity lies.
Anais Read is a Creative Intern