So this is a topic that has been brought up quite a bit chatting with other designers, and I wanted to see what you all thought, just to spark conversation.

I see a lot of people dissing on other designers for style biting or ripping, but what's actually okay and what's over the line? Should a designer be versatile and be able to make a design work for the client? Or should they stick within a specific vibe and anyone else that comes close to that is wrong? I personally agree with the first, and not the latter. I think if the style of the design I'm working on fits the client and makes a good tshirt, then cool. What I think is wrong, is when someone blatantly copies someone elses design, which clearly shows no design skill or ingenuity.

If you get a brief with a specific style mentioned, do you pass off the project if you know another designer dominates that? Or do you take on the project and either do that style, and perhaps mess with it a bit to make it unique? End of the day, is the work more about yourself or your client?
  • cmeyers

    this is just shooting from the hip so forgive me if it's scattered.

    a few thoughts:

    everything is a remix. everyone has influence. what's difficult is taking influence and turning it into something truly new. this doesn't excuse rips. but there's also a difference between rips and "style bites". style-biting is such a gray area, because things become trends because of people copying certain styles to an extent. the lines get blurry when you have a few people doing similar things and creating a trend, and causing others to follow. one example i've seen recently is how leif podhajsky, samuel burgess johnson, sam chirnside, and a few others all have this very similar abstract paint/liquid thing that that do. they've recently broken apart into their own, but i remember seeing them and confusing who was doing what. now this whole liquid paint thing is popping up everywhere, myself being guilty (if that's actually the word). i saw that, and thought "huh, thats all really interesting". so i researched some ways one might go about achieving these results. i ended up watching tutorials from some old ladies making ceramic coasters, took that approach, experimented, and made them my own. but nonetheless, it is a trend.

    another thing to consider, is why you're doing something and who you're doing for, as well as how you're presenting it. if all you do for a career is copy 1 other person's distinct style, and you have a whole website dedicated to presenting this as your own creativity, there's something wrong with that. i work as a full time designer for a merch company. in 1 day i worked on owl city, set it off, and cannibal corpse. if i stuck to 1 style or even just a few styles, i would not have diversity, and would not have the skills to be able to shift gears like that. but am i guilty of style biting because my employer says "hey we need some stuff for owl city" and i'm like "damn, that's not really my thing, but i'll get some inspiration and give it a shot". this being said, i wouldn't put everything i do at work into my portfolio, because it doesn't represent my "brand". recently i've been known for this whole vintage rock vibe. i never would have even had that style had it not been for someone saying "hey we need some vintage rock stuff for this band". but i did it. i enjoyed it. i did more. it became a thing for me. but i for sure am "style biting" all these older artists from the 70s/80s. i also just did the recent BTBAM artwork for coma ecliptic. they specifically mentioned storm thorgerson as a reference as well as david lynch and twilight zone as well as a few other references, but what my goal was, was to take these references and try to put my own spin on it. i think this is the important key. put your own spin on it.

    i dunno. it's almost 4am. i'm rambling. to answer your last question though, i think each project can be treated on its own. sometimes i do things that aren't "my style", and i just don't show them, or put them in my portfolio. it's work. it's a job. other times, i treat the project with way more respect and if it's not my thing i'll point them another direction. it's very hard to draw these lines.
  • William Henry

    To me, the line with style biting is if someone saw the work, would they think the design was done by the original artist or would they think it was influenced by the original artist. I know this can be a very fine line that everyone will judge differently though, especially when a certain style becomes a trend that multiple designers are doing. I don't think style biting is inherently bad per se, but if someone looks at your design and assumes it was done by the original artist you are biting, you didn't go far enough to make it your own.
  • dbdesign

    My thought on it all is - who cares...just do what you do and fuck the rest.
    If someone wants to copy you...let em.
    If you end up creating something that looks similar to another designers past design...oh well.

    I didn't used to think this way and I would get pretty bent out of shape when I saw someone copying my work, but now I just say "fuck it".

    There is a different between creating similar ideas drawn from similar inspiration and flat out stealing.
  • Sam Kaufman

    We could discuss this topic into the ground. What I do know is that if your work doesn't have it's own unique properties, no one will take it/you seriously.
  • bsteczdesigns

    Sam Kaufman said:We could discuss this topic into the ground. What I do know is that if your work doesn't have it's own unique properties, no one will take it/you seriously.

    That's definitely an interesting point. I believe as a designer, you have to be versatile and become an asset to the companies hiring you, but you have to have something to stand out from the crowd. If not, you're just another dime in a dozen.

    Lately I've been seeing more and more of my work getting stolen, obvious rips like taking my work and swapping out "Ruckus" with their failed brand's name. This will never stop and although it still bothers me, I'm beginning to get numb about it. As far as "style biting", I believe style should be used loosely. It doesn't mean you must stick to vector caricatures, style goes beyond that, even in the smallest of forms. Font choices, layout, color palette or even the way you dot your i's, as long as you put your own touch, it becomes your style. Not sure if this makes sense.
  • itcamefromthesky

    As usual, Sam says in two sentences what others fail to in multiple paragraphs. There's a tendency among creatives to develop a casual arrogance in claiming ownership of a specific style. We're all a product of our influences. Anything short of direct plagiarism is the cost of your work influencing others.
  • nathancottenham

    I can only dream of having my work ripped / copied. All jokes aside, It really sucks seeing someone CLEARLY bite someones style, all the while offering half the effort / price.

    I don't need to name names, but we all know who LOVES biting Krawford's style.

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