The creative industry prides itself with its ability to be an industry defined by its ability to rely on original ideas for its survival. Infact, in the weird little industry of advertising, stolen millions through fraudulent means are not the mere scum of shame and behavior. In our little world, a stolen idea could be punishable by death if it were legally possible. Ask most creative’s you know, and they’ll be sure to let you know that copying another’s idea is simply an act that would get you to lose all respect and reputation in advertising. But my question will always be, “exactly what is an original thought?”
An Original Idea
Internationally renowned Creative Director, Brand Strategist and owner of Brandspa Allan Gorman says on his Brief for Building Better Brands
I admit it. I’m a crook. With intent to appropriate and imitate I scour the world (and the internet) looking for great ideas that I might recycle, rearrange and pass off as my own. But I don’t feel guilty for a minute. Because, like Robin Hood, I share what I steal in service to you… and I encourage you to do the same.
Believe it or not, I Cebolenkosi Simphiwe Xulu may as well be a crook too. If you ask anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time with me, they would let you know of my simple obsession with great individuals and great people who have done great things. In my own personal process, in order to even fathom an original thought for any client or personal work, I need to have scoured through hours of research online and offline to establish what is the best work and approaches that I have seen to tackle challenges closest to the one that I am facing. I call this little process “searching for inspiration”. And if I run into something really good that I believe could add value to work that I am doing, it would only be exceptionally retarded to just look at such influence and keep it from helping my client achieve greatness. I mean, what do you do when you find a R200 note on the floor? I know what Donald Trump does?
Does this make me a thief?
I study the masters and learn from the best. I consider myself a generally confident individual but I love watching Muhammad Ali videos in action or listening to some braggadacio Hip Hop lyrics from the likes of Sean Carter/Jay-Z to just get my mental motivation and stimulation right. I keep an eye on what graffiti artists and graphic designers are doing weekly whilst socializing with young and hip unsignd fashionistas, artists and musicians that bring flavor and colour to the Johannesburg aesthetic. If I see an art book or blog, best believe I’m going to be attracted to it like gum to a shoe as my thirst for the visual pleasure can simply not be quenched by a lifetime of imagery. Does this then mean that I copy from them and steal from them? Truthfully, at some point I generally stopped caring.
My thirst for the visual pleasure can simply not be quenched by a lifetime of imagery.
I love studying the best ideas and work to help me add to my own ideas. I don’t learn from the bad stuff, but I am sure to always add elements of the great stuff to my own work. And by some luck, I have been gifted with an ability of understanding what is good artistically and what is bad so I am always hoping that work I deliver can always be able to push my own personal barriers to a certain extent.
“Making use of the ideas of others is a good thing… as long as those thoughts can inspire greatness and offer actionable ideas you can use” – Allan Gorman
We live in the “Age of Information”. (My apologies for nearly slitting my wrists at having no other term to use besides the overused analogy to define our age. It was either that, or innova… I can’t even do it). And with the internet and technology excelling at over 3 times the rate at which our minds can process information, there is an insurmountable amount of great information out there to learn from and to use to better yourself and others creatively. Otherwise, what is the point of all this information being there if we cannot use it to create knowledge and wisdom?
Personally, I find that the process of harnessing an original idea to be the hardest and also the simplest part of my life and creative career. It comes as naturally as it comes with absolute painstaking difficulty. I can sit for 2 hours just brainstorming absolutely pathetic ideas as much as I can spend an entire day churning out award winning material (In my head atleast).
In the end though, my gospel is not to inform anyone to steal good or great ideas, but I only preach that there is nothing wrong with learning from them and using them to help better your personal level of creativity or that of the people around you. Inspiration is not theft… I think.
That’s our piece and tell them you heard it from Simphiwe Xulu aka @Mr_MediaX on Twitter.
PS: Just for laughs, some stolen ideas, tracing and copied concepts
We are all human! Believe it or not, great agencies such Ogilvy & Mather, JWT and Young and Rubicam are also run by humans who are also subject to human error, and lets be honest, blatant lack of original ideas at times. Below is a collection of some print adverts that I found online that were done by these great agencies. Thanks to www.ideabounty.com for these.