“Nothing is original.

Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination”
Jim Jarmusch

While working as a designer, I became inspired very much by the Design Thinking process. Building on each other’s responses and ideas, one of the important tips in brainstorming session, left a lasting imprint on how we foster innovative solutions. One idea is commonly brought out by another. While brainstorming, we listen and consider other team members’ thoughts, new insights would be discovered, and then new ideas would be continuously built. Just try to think back, how many times did you or did you hear other team members say, “Ah, ha! That idea makes me think of something…”?

But things will not always be smooth as we think. Sometimes, you might find one of your team member is a career criminal, constantly stealing your ideas and claiming all the credits. You think the guy is a jerk, and the seed of hate is planted. You become silent, trying to protect the most clever and precious ideas in your head. The guy can no more repeat what you say. At the end, not many ideas are generated. You win the battle, but lose the war.

Left, Supreme skate decks emblazoned with Louis Vuitton’s monogram print in 2000. Right, Supreme x Louis Vuitton official collaboration in 2017

In the TED talk, Embrace the remix, Kirby Ferguson explained the concept of Remix, “copy, transform and combine.” The same technique has been used by artists for millennia. It took on new significance in mid-20th-century with Pop Art, and it is not surprising that today you can still see it incorporated into the creative expression. For example, Supreme, the street fashion brand, paid tribute to Luis Vuitton by making a series of skate decks, beanies, and T-shirts emblazoned with its monogram print in 2000, and got lawsuit. However, two brands officially collaborated and created a capsule collection in 2017.

In the end, it’s hard to determine plagiarism, especially when things can be copied and pasted easily in the digital era. People usually get into trouble for plagiarism when there’s conflicts of interest. I believe the world is the common achievement of human civilization, and I think the quote from John Donne is beautiful:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .”

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