Cathy’s getting controversial in this episode as she tackles the topic of “Copying”. Cathy has been copied numerous times (that she knows of), but still understands the importance it should have in any designer’s life. Cathy shares how to get “Bulletproof Inspiration” from others, how to not feel like a fraud when doing it, and how it all helps us grow as Designers.

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Full Transcript:

Hey everyone, this is Cathy Olson and welcome to the Secrets of Gorgeous Design Podcast. I am so freaked out to record this episode right now. I am literally like, hold it. Actually wanted to talk about this topic for a little while, but actually I don’t want to talk about it kind of the same time because I think it’s a racy topic as far as it comes. This is racy as against basically when it comes to design, right? Um, but I, I feel like it needs to be sad and it needs to be talked about. I need to get over the fact that I’m a, I just need to stop caring about what people are going to think when I record this episode and what people say and I just got to be honest and truthful because I think that it’s something that a lot of people do anyways.

Even if they don’t act like they’re doing it. And I want to give you guys permission to do this because it is something that’s really happening in real life and everybody does it. And um, gosh, this, why is it so hard to talk about, I don’t know, but today I’m going to talk to you about copying other people and how every single one of us do it and how you can do it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a fraud. Right? Today I’m going to talk about the bulletproof way to get inspired from other people. Let’s jump on in.

My name is Cathy Olson. I’m part of a group of entrepreneurs who are the founders and creative directors of their businesses who have a discerning eye and a ton of heart. If you ask those get rich quick types, they would say that pretty designed, isn’t functional and doesn’t sell.

Yet. We are proving everyday that beautiful and thoughtful details do sell and in fact attract unstoppable beauty and wealth. We believe that we can have it all and that sales can be gorgeous. These are the secrets of gorgeous design and we are here to make creativity, lucrative, build gorgeous brands and sales funnels, and to make the world of business a gorgeous place to be. Now before you commence to throwing it, they get me any, like kind of bruised fruit or tomatoes or any of that. Let me clarify that. I have been copied til like kingdom come in my, you know, 10 years of in business. And actually even before that, right in, I’ve been a professional graphic designer for 20 years. Trust me, I’ve been on the other side of it and I’ve been copied, like literally, I mean sometimes like not overtly, right?

Sometimes people were like pretty sneaky, sneaky about it. And then other, other times people are really, really, um, straight up copying and pasting in my stuff. I’ve been through it all and I’ve been on the other side of it and it feels really crappy being on the other side of it. It’s kind of like, this episode is sort of serving for two parts. It’s to say here’s how you do it the right way and here’s how you do it so that you don’t like make everyone hate. You. Also like, here’s how you do it, the respect of way, and if you need to like, just take the word like the word, if the word copying really, really bothers you, then take out that word. And just, I love the word inspiration because it’s obviously it’s more of a positive word and I love that word.

Obviously it’s in my business name, love inspired. Um, but I just, I think that it’s the same thing, right? If we’re talking about copying somebody versus being inspired by somebody, there’s semantic differences, but I just want to. So basically I don’t care what word you use, I just want you to do it the right way is all I’m saying. Right. Um, but again, I’ve been copied and I’ve been in their side of it and some people are really sensitive about it. So I actually want to say to those of you who are really sensitive about it too, I mean, it definitely depends on how it’s happening and who’s doing it and how they’re acting about it. But I, I’ve also seen people overreact to. I’ve had clients that have come to me that have said, oh my gosh, that look, this person totally ripped off this site that we created together and I’m like, but did they, cause it Kinda doesn’t like, so I think I say that because sometimes people are really oversensitive and they think that, um, that you own every line that looks like that or new own, like the fact that like, you can use a frame like that.

I mean sometimes I can tell they’ve been inspired with. That doesn’t bother me at all. Um, so again, there’s different levels of sensitivity and that’s again why I didn’t want to cover this topic because I feel like it’s such a hot topic and there’s such a heated discussion on both sides and I, you don’t agree with me, that’s totally fine. You don’t have to, you know, we can agree to disagree, but um, you know, feel free to message me privately if you want to hash it out. Um, or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just tell you, I don’t wanna talk about it, but either way, um, I just want to give you my version of it because I don’t really, there’s not a lot of people talking about it, so I just figured there needs to be some kind of conversation happening when knowing that this is happening everywhere.

Right? Um, so I have three tips for you today on how to this, this idea of bulletproof, um, inspiration. And the reason I say bulletproof is because two things. Number one, I just wanted to be, I want you to be able to be inspired by others, work into you to recreate it in yours and, but in a bulletproof way, meaning that you’re above reproach on it so that if the original designer were to come across it, which sometimes they don’t, right? But sometimes they do, that’s a problem. But um, if the original designer or artist were to come across it, that they would be like, wow, that’s a really cool adaptation, right? Like, that’s like, you, what you take took my idea and ran with it. That’s kind of the idea of being bulletproof. But also just for legal reasons, right? Because you can literally get sued if you start copying people left and right and just ripping off all of their stuff.

So never do that. Never rip anything off intentionally like that. Um, and just kind of be in, just take it as inspiration, right? Bulletproof inspiration is, is the idea here. So the first thing you can do is make sure that you work on the strategy of the layout before you even get started. I think the biggest downfall that you can do is if you’re copying or mimicking or you know, kind of, um, using your, a design as your muse or whatever the biggest problem is, you can make decisions for the client or for yourself that aren’t the best decisions, but that’s not the best decisions for. It’s not the best solution, right? So if you’re just copying over a layout or something blindly and you’re not even taking any, any of the strategy into consideration, then you’re going to design something that is basically designed for someone else.

Right? It’s kind of like putting on an outfit that was there was totally created for to fit someone else’s body perfectly, right. It’s just not gonna quite work. Right. And that’s the thing. It’s like, I think that a lot of people do. I think a lot of people will pick things based on design decisions and not strategy decisions. And that becomes an issue with a client, obviously doesn’t help them, it doesn’t help them sell to their people, but it also makes it so that the, the solution doesn’t quite fit right. They grow out, grow up pretty quickly and they need something new really quickly and they just, the whole thing was a waste, right. So that’s why it’s also, again, why I talk about doing strategy before and laying everything out, making sure everything makes sense. And I’ve done a ton for pretty much every other podcast I’ve done where I talk about strategy.

But um, I think two podcasts ago I talked specifically how to design it in a strategic way. You want to make sure you do that first. If you are designing in a strategic way, if you are making sure the layout fits the client and who is interacting with a brand and actually like making, making those conversions and actually making sales. If you’re focused on that first, it’s going to be pretty hard to copy after that just by default because you’re going to have your layout and your skeleton sort of already worked out. You have all your planning already worked out, so if you’re trying to like, you can’t really rip a design Spec like exactly copy it. If you have your own strategy and your own layout happening anyways, right? Because it’s going to be in a different configuration anyway, so it’d be pretty hard to recognize.

That’s the first thing that you can do to make sure that you’re using. I’m making your design as bulletproof as possible. Make sure that you work out the layout totally separate without the design first and again you can listen to a couple episodes back where I talked about how to do that and then the second thing that you can do to make sure that you’re not totally ripping or, or a copying someone is that you can look for elements to recreate and not the layout as a whole. You can basically de Lys is what I do when I’m looking at something that I’m, I basically take a lot, a lot of different inspiration, right? I might have like the client will send me all these different sites that they like and I see what is similar with them and I really deconstruct them and I don’t look at them as a whole piece.

I look at them as little sections of stuff and I just kind of use it as a jumping point. It’s basically like if you were to grab a magazine and kind of creating like a collage and you’re just cutting out little pieces and gluing it all together. It’s this new thing. It’s not the same anymore. You’ve changed it. You’ve tweaked it, you made it your own, you put it altogether, you really built this like little Frankenstein, monster layout, right? Um, but then it’s totally yours at that point. So that’s what I really do. I don’t look for layouts as a whole. I don’t look for the sum of its parts. I look at the parts and so if you kind of think of it that way is like, you know, grabbing little little pieces from all different types of designs and actually just looking for the elements to recreate in the, the idea behind the design style.

Then you’ll, no one would ever call you a copy cat ever. Right. Because you’re basically taking from all these little different inspiration sources. I would say you want a good three to four inspiration sources at the minimum if not more. I mean if you have more than definitely you know, you’re pulling from all kinds of sources so you won’t really have to worry about that. But I would say three to four at a minimum and just kind of be bouncing back and forth and just really deconstructing the layout and looking at a piece by piece and just focusing on this section and um, and not the whole thing as a part. So if you’re just looking at, okay, I like this little treatment they did there, I liked the way that they did this, I like the font they chose or whatever it is.

Right? Just deconstructing the elements and recreating those for your own design. And then the third thing that I always do that also makes it so it’s bulletproof inspiration is that I sketch it from my memory, so I don’t like to actually see the layout as I’m designing because that makes it too close usually. So what I do instead is I take lar or take those elements, right. What I was talking about. I look for all those, all those little elements. And I started sketching out ideas on piece of paper. So I take a look at, well, like I really liked the way they use that goal there. I liked the way they laid this on top of that are like that font that they use and then I’ll just sketch it and recreate it from sketches, like while I’m looking at it. Right.

I’m looking at it, I’m sketching it out and getting some ideas and putting it together. But then when I actually jump over to the computer, I do it for my sketch. That way it’s like it’s getting reinterpreted. Your brain is really cool the way it works like that with memory. It’s actually funny. Um, I learned a lot about memory, and I’m not going to go off too far on this tangent, but I learned a lot about how memories work and basically like you, it re, every time you pull up a thought or an idea or a memory, your body re or sorry, your brain reinterprets it every time. So you’re, the memory will literally change every time you remember it because it gets reinterpreted through your new filter. So basically you take an old idea and then it, like filters it through your mind, which is a different place than it was the last time.

I remembered it and it actually changes the memory. It’s never static. It’s never the same memory. It changes every time you recall it, which I think is cool. Obviously just because it’s cool and I nerd out on stuff like that. But I also think it’s cool because when we’re doing this design, we’re now reinterpreting the design, right? It’s not that same thing. We’re not making a carbon copy of that idea. We’re actually reinterpreting it from our memory and from what we drew. Right? So we have this whole little sketched out version below, uh, you know, that we’re looking down at and we’re seeing this new interpreted version. It’s Kinda like, it’s Kinda like that whole idea of the phone, you know, telephone, but it’s, it’s, it’s being reinterpreted several times before it gets to the actual computer and designing it. I love doing that.

Um, it makes it feel like it’s your own and it is your own right, because it’s going through several processes to get there. Those really are the three things that I do and every single time I do these it makes it. My design is like total, totally, it’s a new thing. It’s a new creature, right? It’s a new animal, it’s not the same thing anymore. And I don’t get accused of being copied or any of that, stuff like that. Of course you could always come up with your own original ideas to throw in some original ideas there. Um, but I love, you know, I, I honestly love paying attention to what everyone else is doing because it doesn’t have to be a thing of me copying or whatever, but I think if you don’t pay attention, there’s more of a, it’s more to your detriment if you’re not paying attention to what’s happening in trends and styles and um, if you’re completely ignoring all that stuff and just going crazy like avant garde, like you’re not really stretching yourself as an artist and you’re not growing with everyone else alongside you.

Right? I think that you can reinterpret things that other people are doing and make them different and push them. And actually that should be my fourth thing is that you can improve upon other people’s ideas. If you have, you know, you kind of put this all these like this little like Frankenstein, you know, layout together and it’s become this new thing, it’s become this new creature that you built, but you can also make it better, right? With the WHO says it has to be that way. If it doesn’t make sense for the client, right? Change it, make it better, make the solution better, make it better than they even made it in the first place. And then people were all of a sudden going to be copying you. But that’s another story. But that’s how we really innovate. We take it, we take a foundation built on, you know, other things that other people do and we reinterpret all this information and we’re doing this anyways, whether we do it, whether we admit that we’re doing it or not, this is happening completely on a subconscious level anyways.

There’s nothing we designed that we’ve, that we’ve never seen before. There’s nothing new under the sun. This is happening in our brains anyways. I’m just going with it and getting inspired. So you don’t stare at a blank screen, so I definitely do this when I can’t think of anything when I’m stuck and I’m not, I just need some ideas. This is what I do. I’ve just got to be honest about it. I hope that was helpful for you guys today. See, I just hope that made you feel better at that. If you already are doing this, that you feel better. That it is totally normal. Um, I think you’re totally normal. I think you’re fine and I think this is the bulletproof way to get inspired from other people and just to keep creating and challenging and becoming a better designer. Thanks guys. I appreciate you so much and I’ll see you on the next one.

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