Good artists copy, great artists steal.
When I first heard of this from my partner (who’s also a designer), I didn’t understand what he meant. After a bit of a conversation I started to come around to the idea that designers copy designs to a T all of the time. And while they produced something that may be good, they didn’t produce anything that the world didn’t already have. A great designer goes out into the world and cherry picks all of the good design they see and they adapt it to fit their needs. They tweak it, change it and make it better for their application.
I’m currently designing a conference site and noticing a trend that conferences are playing up the city they’re being held in. I could find something that looks nice and swap out our city and our text for theirs and call it a day. Or I can figure out how that trend works to our advantage and then devise a design that leverages advertising the city.
Mix work and play. Attend the conference by day and explore the city by night. Or book the hotel a couple of extra days so you can take your time. Always wanted to see that sports team play live? Here’s your chance. Saw that greasy diner on your favourite reality TV show? Now’s your chance to check it out.
While I don’t think anybody would book a conference primarily for the added benefits, they may be swayed to book mine over someone else’s because of them. I may not have realized that without looking at the trends in other sites. Sometimes trends are just trends. Other times it’s a glimpse into what users want and a way to market to their needs.
The moral of the story: steal from others so you can cut back on the research that you need to do. But don’t copy them, because really, that’s not why we became designers.