The Imitation Game
We have all heard the well-known adage coined by Charles Caleb Colton, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We can appreciate this concept in theory, but when it comes to design and ownership of original creative content, there is a very thin line between imitation and inspiration—the latter being fundamental to creative development.
There is a long history of image appropriation in the fine art world. Think Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans, one of the most recognized icons of the pop art movement. Even Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Although commercial design is rooted in fine art, this “imitation” mindset does not translate. The world of commercial design comes with realities like legality and copyright infringement—which are not particularly swayed by the flattery argument. This “imitation vs. inspiration” argument is currently projected on the global stage with Japan’s recent retraction of the emblem for their 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The selected emblem (consisting of a “T” and a red dot symbolizing a beating heart) was scrapped amongst allegations that it was plagiarized from a logo that designer Olivier Debie created for the Belgian Theatre de Liege.
See for yourself.
It is virtually a carbon copy […]