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.