Inspiration And The Curse of Pirate Paranoia

I read with interest Liz's post on design piracy. Zeldman pointed her to a funny site that illustrates some questionable “pirated site designs“. When I was principal and executive VP at an agency and interactive design and technology firm we proudly pounded on our chests when we spoke of our innovative technology, compelling design and integrated online and offline strategies for our clients. I earned the title “inspiration evangelist”. This because I pushed hard to get the best from our teams. I pushed hard to inspire them to think differently, push the envelope and pave new paths. All for the sake of strategy and never form over function.

The beauty and challenge of integrating on and offline content and messaging is in the design. And I'm not talking fonts, color palate, illustration and photography. I'm talking to reinforcing messages with imagery, style, voice (tone) AND function. Can this stuff be copyrighted? Probably. I guess anything can either be bought or protected — for a price.** It pained us when we'd find blatant rip offs of our designs (logos, marks, colors and layouts). But the pain was short lived because our analgesic was simply the understanding that design and strategy are more than skin deep. The roots of great ideas are usually deep, complex and have lineage to its creators. And when these are blatantly ripped off, it's superficially evident. We all need inspiration — to spark great ideas.

**And just how did Amazon get to copyright/patent “One Click” ordering? These folks certainly have something to say about it.