How To Steal Ideas

And Do It Legally!

The very idea of how to steal ideas might get under a lot of people’s skin, especially if you have been the victim of this crime. Yes, it is a crime. As in illegal. That’s why things like copyrights and trademarks were invented. Some will say that imitation, plagiarism, and other forms of copying is the greatest form of flattery. I call it lazy, unimaginative, talentless, fraudulent, dishonest, swindling, dishonorable… Shall I go on?

Still, others (the idea thieves) might say that everything has already been thought of. There are no new or unique ideas. Everything that you could possibly think of has already been done.

Has it, really? Or is that just a cop out excuse of the lazy and unimaginative? The automobile has been around for hundreds of years. But a lot has changed over the centuries. Cars today look vastly different from the horseless buggies of long ago and they continue to change. Why? If there are no new or unique ideas, why do car designs continue to evolve?

The evolution of car design. (Photo credits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari)

What about telephones or any other product out there? The fact that product design continues to change proves that not everything has already been thought of and that there are plenty of unique ideas that have yet to be brought to fruition. Yes, perhaps the basic idea is already there. It’s up to you as an artist to reinvent it.

The evolution of telephone and mobile phone design (Photo credits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_telephone and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mobile_phones)

There’s no law against using other people’s ideas. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Taking the actual design of someone’s idea however, is illegal. The best way to avoid any legal trouble is to put your own spin on things. It involves effort and putting your creative noggin to work. It involves many hours at the drawing table. So what? You’re an artist. It’s what you love doing, right? So, roll up your sleeves, put on your favorite playlist and a pot of coffee, and get to sketching!

What About Character Design?

Let’s take my all-time favorite character, Wonder Woman. Her character was created by the American psychologist and writer, William Moulton Marston and artist, Harry G. Peter. Her first appearance was in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941. The Wonder Woman character is now over 75 years old and she’s gone through many, many redesigns. From Harry G. Peter, Alex Ross, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Jim Lee, and many more in between, Wonder Woman has changed from very soft and feminine to a bit more muscular, with a skirt, with briefs, with pants, long hair, short hair, etc. It’s true that the heart of Wonder Woman, who she is, and what she stands for has for the most part remained the same over the years. But artists have taken their liberties in re-imagining her appearance. Just do a DeviantArt search for any of your favorite characters and you’ll find dozens of different renditions.

The evolution of Wonder Woman’s appearance (Photo credits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonder_Woman)

There Is No Honor Among Thieves

Granted, with trademark characters you do have to proceed with some caution, especially if you plan on selling your work. But the gist of what I’m getting at is this…if you see the work of an artist and you really like it, steal ideas legally by putting your own spin on it. I’ve walked through countless galleries, museums, and art fairs and have seen work that I really liked and admired. If I went back home and duplicated that work exactly, I would be guilty of stealing. The way to steal ideas and avoid any legal issues is by expanding on the idea or maybe simplifying it by going for a more minimalist approach. Play with textures, line weight, and balance. Exaggerate some features while minimizing others. Ask yourself ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if I made this area huge, or angular, or eliminated it altogether? What if I made the character evil instead of good? Why not? Superman has Bizarro, right?

The bottom line is this…swiping somebody else’s work and claiming it as your own is illegal. It’s plagiarism, piracy, theft, stealing. And it’s laziness and talentless, pure and simple. It’s all the things I said at the beginning of this post. Overall, it’s pointless. YOU know deep down that it’s not your work. You might be able to fool some people, but you know that you’re a thief. There’s no pride in that. If you don’t have that sense of honest pride in what you do, why bother?

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Myra Naito

Myra Naito

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Freelance copywriter who is passionate about art and fitness. Check out my art blog at mnatiodesigns.com/blog/ or follow me @mnaito_fineart .