From time to time, I’ll get emails from thoughtful folks trying to out someone "ripping off" a design I made. Occasionally—and it’s rare—there’s an actual abuse being reported: Someone is printing a design of mine on a piece of unapproved merchandise, or maybe someone copied a piece point for point and claimed it as their own. Though, to be fair, these are the exceptions.
More often than not, the accused are those making work that happens to share a common theme or similar structure in the build of their work when compared with mine. Whether it’s a geometric base to their work or a similar lighting mechanic, some confuse my technique with a fully owned, patented solution. I’ll just take the time here and now to be as clear as day when I say that I didn’t and continually am not inventing anything new or unseen. My concluded solutions have surely been revelations to others laboring on similar problems without any intervention or influence of mine.
Working with a grid system and creating abstractions therein isn’t something that belongs to me anymore than the Pantone 2592 U belongs to any one person or organization. I simply don't see myself in possession of any one particular technique.
The sheer size and publicity of the internet community has made creative theft a true, punishable assault in the realm of mass professionalism. And with good reason. The ability to “out” a wrongdoer amidst a jury of peers is a tempting offer; often snowballing into a social firestorm of vitriol that’s damnable to the offender and beneficial to the originator. It’s the shot tweeted around the world.
And the fact is, we like to watch it happen. Like flies to an open wound, we crowd around to get a good view; waiting with bated breath for the response of the offender. Will they cower in defense? Will there be a maelstrom of words lobbied back and forth? My freshman English teacher probably said it best when she said we have a "fascination with abomination”.
I can’t speak for everyone on the exact scale of sensitivity he or she experiences, I can only speak for myself when I say that I have little to no interest in outing anyone for building their work in a manner similar manner to my own—other than perhaps patting them on the back and taking notes on what they’ve done better. If you’re eager to know how something is being built, let me know. There are no trade secrets in here that go under lock and key at night. If I was only being hired for my hands or software know-how, I’d have bigger problems than I know.
Take a moment to think twice before crying "foul". Oftentimes, doing a little extra digging for context could shed some valuable light to the perceived conflict. Be prepared to accept the possibility that perhaps your work hasn't been seen by literally every living being.
It’s crowded working in this space; crowded enough that, at times, we’re going to be rubbing elbows. I’d just prefer to be able to labor side-by-side in admiration as opposed to constructing windowless walls in paranoid isolation.
That said, there are undoubtedly, inarguably instances where work is being illicitly stolen. In those cases, do what needs to be done. Obviously. Though, as I’m not a lawyer, the usefulness of this specific article has plummeted to a resounding zilch. Apologies all around.