updated: October 2nd, 2009 / Ross Johnson / 11 Comments

The line between inspiration and stealing design…

While it might be strange to hear, I was pleasantly surprised last weekend when I had several readers contact me to let me know that someone had used my site as inspiration for their own in an obvious way (Not only that, but they have been featured on some CSS Galleries for it). I was happy for two reasons really, most importantly that those who read this blog pay attention enough and care enough to take the time to notify me. Thanks Jeff Mackey, Andrei, and Harry. That is huge and I greatly appreciate it!

Additionally I am flattered in a lot of ways. There are some very obvious and clear uses of design elements that I developed for this site, but it is not a pixel for pixel rip off. The color scheme, bookmark, etc… pretty clear where they got those elements. However the fact that someone liked this sites design to the point where they felt they should take elements and modify them for their own really says that this design has enough value to mimic.

I am not ashamed to say that I look for inspiration when I work on projects, and while I try and broaden my inspiration beyond the web there is no doubt I end up adopting techniques and design elements from other websites and designers. Hell, even this site was partly inspired by Airbag Industries. Additionally it doesn’t take much time looking through a lot of the design galleries to see that it is actually widespread, there are a lot of sites that adopt the same design styles and design elements. All of those styles started with one site, other designers liked it and mimiced the effect for their own work.

To say that your work is uninfluenced by anything is a lie, and some people feel they must work closer to what they see and take in than others. Now that is not to say that I am fine with those who steal a design for their own, but there is a level of flexibility in taking a good design and learning from it, using pieces that work, and adopting it for your own. I would love to see people using some of the styling ques of this site more often.

Maybe some day if I reach some level of stardom I will get grumpy and change my mind, but for now thanks and thanks.

What are your thoughts about stealing work? Where do you draw that line? Is this situation too close to my design, or did they alter it enough to make it their own? I would love to hear your thoughts.

11 thoughts The line between inspiration and stealing design…

  1. (Thought I would reply here instead of the email)

    Well, my only thoughts are: Taking one part is an idea, taking two parts is an influence, but taking three or more is crossing the line. 🙂

    So what the guy nicked were: your bookmark, your color scheme, and if you look at his RSS image… well… 3 Strikes mate.

    It takes time and effort to draft, design, and eventually produce work. What pirates basically do is remove all of the above, and devalue the effort you have put in to make your work stand out. It’s a practice that I really, really, dislike.

  2. Thats funny because I noticed that site over the weekend when looking at some of the Galleries.

  3. That is a good point Andrei, maybe there really should be a limit of how many items you can take (and by take I mean pretty much just duplicate and use, rather than take the idea and modify it significantly).

    Dan yeah I came across it a few times too, just wasn’t sure if I was looking into it too much or not.

  4. You know what, the funny thing about this is that I went HUNTING for your site after the agenda site came up in my feed reader. I KNEW I had seen that site somewhere before… and when I finally found you, you already addressed the issue!

    I’m just glad that you’re aware of what’s going on. Classy way to handle it, too. 🙂

  5. I think the site does draw inspiration from your own and I think they take the design elements and when put all together modify it enough to make it their own.

    And honestly your homepage looks more texty and his looks more graphical design wise. So I would say that his is unique enough to not be considered stealing.

    Yes it is exciting to see your design elements that were designed from scratch being reused. It means you did something right.

    Troy Schmidt
  6. I think it’s something anyone has to decide for himself. Personally I wouldn’t mind it much if I were you, in this case.

    I just don’t like the sneaky thing. If I get inspiration from other websites or templates when I’m designing I at least credit the original author with a link or e-mail them that I used their work. But just ripping without telling seems stealing to me.

    Or when the thief doesn’t admit that he’s “inspired” by your design, like happened with Elliot Jay Stocks (http://elliotjaystocks.com/blog/archive/2008/how-can-we-stop-the-thieves/). Those things just make me feel angry..

  7. stealing designs is very bad 🙁 if i see some stealing designs or contents i get very angry…

  8. @Ali

    Yes stealing design is not good practice, but as Ross pointed out and from my own opinion the site isn’t stealing the design merely being inspired by it which is definitely the best form of flattery.

    As Jeffrey Zeldman once said “Don’t worry about people stealing your design work. Worry about the day they stop.”

  9. If it looks the same to the point where people confuse two sites, then the differences don’t matter.

    If the original site’s design is copyrighted or cc attr, then I’d be pissed off no end.

    If the original design isn’t copyrighted or anything, then fair game.

    Personally, I think this particular example is one of the less terrible rips. Clearly its been heavily “inspired” by your site, but least they didn’t just copy and paste your html/css like those russians who stole Dave Shea’s mezzoblue design.

  10. http://www.agendaoeste.com – I arrived late? Drawing changed? I do not think anything with your site …

  11. Looks like they changed the design, thanks for the heads up @oliver.

    I don’t know if it was a result of this post or not, but I didn’t mind so much either way.


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