Pablo Picasso is credited with saying “All art is theft” and “Good artists copy, Great artists steal”. This can be interpreted as: Even if a person is not the first to do something, if they do it exceptionally well, then they become the one you think of when you see that style. You could ague nothing is original, that we subconsciously borrow ideas from the world around us. Inspired by pop culture, nature, literature, music and the everyday strange quirks of our lives. “Smells Like Spirit” by Nirvana came from Kurt Cobain seeing the phrase “Kurt smells like teen spirit” scrawled on a wall. Kurt took it as a compliment on his rebellious spirit and wouldn’t find out for some time, that Teen Spirit was simply the brand of a deodorant. Even with such an unique origin Nirvana still had accusations of ripping off Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” when it came to their distinct guitar riff. No matter how pure your vision you sometimes can’t help but step on someone else’s toes.
In the design industry the borrowing of successful ideas is more common that it should be. I’ve seen artists destroyed when told that someone has seen their card in a shop only to find that the design is a copy. Of course as trends emerge there will be organic and accidental overlaps. The Prosecco quotes, the superhero parodies and the unicorn graphics that we’e all familiar with. This article is not an attack on the companies tapping into a current zeitgeist or cultural movement. No, what really gets Gift Shop Hub’s goat is the blatant thief of someone else’s design. The calculated “That’s good. Let’s steal it”.
Designer Tuesday Bassen shamed Zara by sharing her original designs next to one of their new ranges. Posting a side-by side photo of her pins and Zara the allegedly copying caused outrage across the internet. Tuesday said “(They claimed) I have no base because I am a small artist with 90k followers on Instagram, but they are a major corporation with 90 million customers and only ‘a handful of people’ would notice that the designs are mine,”
Modern Dog is currently suing the retail heavy weights Target and Disney as they supposedly used images from one of Modern Dog’s books, containing artistic sketches of small dog faces on a tee shirt. Modern Dog will have to prove that Disney and Target did actually look at their design when making the tee shirt. It’s not just a simple case of saying “I did this first” (Gift Shop Hub is also trying not to dig their own hole with the liberal usage of “supposedly” and “allegedly”). To go up against the House of Mouse is a scary thing indeed.
A strange and interesting case is that of the Sheffield Park Hill Flats. Graffiti that ran across a bridge saying “I love you will u marry me,” become an iconic part of Sheffield culture. In 2006 when Urban Splash redeveloped Park Hill flats, the company used the graffiti as a slogan. They replicated the graffiti on posters, sales office glass doors and even cushions. The dreams of one lost individual appropriated for profit a cynic would say. When the ‘artist’ was tracked down he turned out to be a man named Jason (His surname was not given). Homeless and broke Jason reached out to Urban Splash. “You’re making all this money out of my graffiti and I’m homeless. Can you give me a flat?” He was quoted with saying but says there was no reply. Should Jason have been rewarded for his contribution? It’s a tricky question and one Gift Shop Hub is unsure how to answer without writing another article (we’re already over our 500 words).
To us here at Gift Shop Hub, artists, suppliers and designs should strive to be 100% original. To look within their own crazy lives and find something wonderfully strange within them to paint, draw, doodle and shout about. To drag your own beautiful thoughts not matter how bizarre into the world. To put a little bit of you into everything you do. To create not imitate.