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Design? or plagiarism?

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Anonymous

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Hi all

I have been thinking of late about where inspired design stops and plagiarism takes over; very interesting question and quite debatable!!

From an academic standpoint (e.g. PhD) we expect to see evidence of a thorough investigation into other people's work and the adoption of their ideas throughout the thesis (Correctly referenced) but there must be a 'contribution', however small, that is unique and new.
transferred to woodworking, this would approximate to most designs having already being made at some point and new designs being largely inspiration form previous pieces but with a 'contribution' of ones own.

The thing is, when is a design 'new' and to what level should others inspire your creation before it is no longer your own?

What do you think?
 

Bean

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I do not believe that any design is 'new' as objects evolve due to local requirements and constraints. They are a 'new' arrangement of often previously undocumented characteristics, or a refining of an idea which is where the 'newness' is introduced.
Sorry Tony but I do not believe that there is anything truly 'New' in design
Or am I just another cynical engineer :roll:


Bean
 

DaveL

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Tony,

I will echo what Bean has said, as an engineer I look at what others have done and take what I consider to be the most appropriate parts of a design and reuse them. In some cases over and over again, with slight improvements each time.
 
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Anonymous

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Dave, Bean I agree up to a point. However, your own design may encompass many elements from many previous pieces and so be 'unique' in it's own right

Also, a piece may be new and origianl to the designer if they have hever see it's lke beofre.

My real question refers more to how you acknowledge influences in your work, not is your work is in fact unique in totality

At what point do you acknowledge this influence? and at what point not?
 

Dewy

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I have never bothered with where the ideas or designs came from.
If I like the look of something I make it to the size I want to fit in where it is to go.
I have never followed any set plan but am an original 'back of a fag packet' type designer.
As there are many ways to produce the same thing I use the method that suits me best.
I doubt if anything can truly be said to be new as thousands before us are likely to have made things of similar design for generations.
 

Aragorn

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Tony
I agree with you point about a thing being original to the designer, even if it's been done before. I've invented quite a few things that ended up being invented by someone else too!
Tony":147eaohz said:
At what point do you acknowledge this influence? and at what point not?
Where there is a clear influence for a design I would acknowledge that "I was influenced by this piece/designer" etc. and leave it at that. The differences between my design and the influential one should be obvious just by a comparison.
To me, plagiarism suggests the conscious uncredited lifting of someone elses work. My tendency to design in a certain way has no doubt been influenced by several other designers, but I don't know who!
I think more than individuals, I am influenced by periods or movements or cultures. I think you can usually see some of the japanese in most of my work.
 

tim

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Bit early on a monday morning for this but it is 3.4 deg in the workshop at the mo :shock:

I think its a fair question but I think also that it absolutely depends at what level of design you are considering the influence or possible plagiarism.

For example - take the table/ bench that is pictured in my avatar (easy for ref not because I think it holds its head up in the all time great design awards). Who do I acknowledge for the concept of bench or table? I like beveled edges, straight lines and tapered legs but I am not conscious of one particular piece (or even one piece per element) contributing to the final design.

What influenced me to use the piece I did for the top? Well the wood did - it looked attractive to me and it would have been a shame to use it anywhere other than 'a' top and it just happened that I wanted to make a bench.

To my mind, plagiarism is the total lifting unaltered from a source and passing it off as your own. Most furniture designs (rather than thoughts or hypotheses) are constrained by certain common parameters eg proportions of the human body, of the spaces they are to occupy, material strengths and properties. If the design operates outside those parameters then it is more likely that originality can be achieved but at the same time it is highly probable that the resulting piece fails to meet its original purpose ie as a simple bench.

I think the problem is with this type of debate is that it quickly becomes semantic (no criticism Tony for starting it at all - very interesting) and comparatives are quickly made eg there are only 6 original stories or plots.

Originality is an interesting concept for me when attached to something physical since materials must be used - by the very nature of the medium i work with, these aren't original - does that therefore preclude anything I make from being original?

One other question - given that most of us would recognise that one or two design styles influence us (maybe individual makers) when is it that they become 'sources' of new design rather than just conduits of the styles that they were influenced by? My view is that too often it is either after a colossal period of time (post death often) or when some elevated source says so.

I'm off to check the woodburner - thanks for sharpening the brain this morning.

Cheers

Tim
 

Steve Maskery

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Ah Tony!
A subject close to my own heart. It was indeed the very subject that got me into writing in the first palce. THere was a query in the mag from a reader. I can't remember what it was, but I did know the answer. So I emailed Nick Gibbs, said "This is the guy's solution, and BTW, what about an article about the fine line between design inspiration and plagiarism??
So he told me to write it.

For my own part, the matter arose when I made my dining chairs. I'd seen an Ercol chair in a mag whilst on a plane bound for India in 1987, and I still have that same piccture in my wallet today. I liked the chairs a lot. But it was ten years before I had the oppurtunity to actually make them, by which time my ideas of what I liked about them had changed. I had learned about Mackintosh and Sam Maloof, so "my" chairs are a hybrid. Unique? Certainly. Original? Depends on your definition. I'm more than happy to acknowlege influences.

BTW one definition of Innovation (if that is what we are discussing here) is a combination of existing features to provide a new or surprising result (Henderson and Clark, 1990), so by that definition my dining chairs are innovative.

An interesting story I heard was of a young ceramics student. He submitted a teapot for his degree and got very high marks. The teapot appeared in the student review section of a ceramics mag, whereupon it was seen by the man who had really designed it, 50-odd years earlier! The college dealt with it by taking the student to see the old man in his home to apologise in person, something I don't suppose either will forget in a hurry.

Cheers
Steve

Henderson, R. and Clark, K., 1990. Architechtural Innovation: The reconfiguration of existing product technologies and the failure of established firms. Administrative Science Quarterly. 35, pp 9-30.
 

Dewy

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tim":7ztdwn5f said:
eg there are only 6 original stories or plots.

Cheers

Tim
In the 60s when The Avengers was a top TV show, which ran for years, they acknowleged that there were only 6 possible stories/plots and the only difference between episodes were the characters and mixing of plots to appear different.
 
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