January 24, 2009

Whose Design Is It Anyway?

Kelly @ JAX Decor & Design
Is there such a thing as a truly original design? Can one person “own” a design?

I was just browsing the Rate My Space web site. I saw four rooms with colour-blocked walls. They were all similar – blocks of various colours with white “grid” lines in between. A few years ago, a member of the House & Home forums painted the a similar colour block & grid wall in her daughter’s bedroom. Who came up with the idea first? Did they all copy each other? Can one of them lay claim to the design?

When you think about it, every design is based on another design. We take a design that we see and like, and then create our own interpretation of it, putting our own spin on it and giving it our own personal touches. For example – these are two of the walls in my home office (it still needs some furniture!!)

It was inspired by this nursery on Rate My Space (unfortunately, I can’t find the original post on RMS, so I can’t give proper credit to the creator of this room):

The inspiration for the letters on the nursery wall came from this bedding from DwellStudio:

And this bedding was inspired by… well, I guess the alphabet. The history of the alphabet started in ancient Egypt over 4,700 years ago. So does that mean the ancient Egyptians get credit for these three alphabet-inspired designs?

Here's another example. This is our bed:

My husband and I came up for the plans for it and built it. We based it on an upholstered bed from Restoration Hardware and a bed that Sarah Richardson designed for a bedroom on Sarah’s House:

There are obvious similarities between the three beds, but differences as well. All three have a nailhead trim detail. The headboard corner cut-outs and legs on our bed are based on Sarah’s bed. But Sarah used a bold patterned fabric on her bed and we used a solid brown velvet.

So who owns this design? I say all of us – and none us. The beds I used as inspiration for our bed were likely inspired by other beds. In fact, Sarah had to change her original headboard design because the original wouldn’t fit up the stairs to the bedroom. Which is an example of how a design evolves as you move through a project.

Nobody can say that a design is 100% (or even 99%) theirs. Every design is a collaboration of people and ideas – from pictures in books and magazines, TV shows, Internet forums, a friend’s house, stores, hotels, nature… design inspiration is all around us and in all of us.


Kat said...

Great post! I agree, I don't think of it as "stealing" a design, more as being inspired by it. I love your home office design, can't wait to see it furnished. And I really love the wall color in your bedroom. Kathy

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I think that when someone creates a design, even inspired by other things, then that specific design, in its entirety, is THEIR design. It is their vision. BUT, as soon as someone tweaks it, even by just changing the suggested bedspread or lamps, then it becomes a brand new design, inspired by the original. Just my 2 cents. I mean, if you add nuts to my favourite brownie recipe, then it is no longer MY brownie recipe. mmm... brownies...

Kathysue said...

Great Post I totally agree.When you are designing anything you will always look to other things for inspiration.After all the first and best designer of all was God and just look at his use of color and texture and form.Now lets be honest no one can beat that.kathysue

Anonymous said...

Found this through Coco Kelley and I really love the letter wall mural! Very neat. I could see that in a variety of settings. Wouldn't it be neat if teachers did that for their classrooms?

Anonymous said...

Kelly, this is great post! And you are right, no one really "owns" a design, and you did a great job at explaining it from the letters on the wall, to the bedding, to the alphabet to ancient Egypt. Every piece of art has an inspiration and originates from something we've seen, heard, smelled or felt. It's really about building on your inspiration and making it your own. And by the way the letters on the wall is a great idea!

Unknown said...

I work with an artist that creates custom mural wallpaper. She has basic designs she tweaks to personalize it for each customer. She did a pair of Cherubs on each side of a mirror for one client. It was gorgeous. I am sure that while other people have the cherubs, no one else has that!

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