On copying

Not too long ago, I completed a new iteration of my personal website and shared it online. The response far exceeded my initial expectations. It received a lot of love (and views) and I’m incredibly thankful for that. Some loved it so much that they used it as a source of inspiration and reference for their own projects.

Now, I have nothing against taking inspiration from and referencing other works. After all, that’s pretty much what we’re empowering designers to do here at Mobbin. For amateurs and celebrated designers alike, inspiration gathering is, more often than not, the first step of any design process.

Some of the inspired sites are lovely and unique and fun! Like Ari’s! While others are a little less unique… So far I’ve seen one that was pretty much a clone, with a few touches of “personalisation”. Although this was probably something that was bound to happen considering I had open-sourced my code. I’ve also seen a few sites with plagiarised highly inspired copywriting.

Regarding these “less unique” inspired sites, I’m not really sure how to feel about them. This was a pretty new experience for me because I’ve never had this level of exposure for any of my projects before. To be honest, my initial response was one of annoyance. Here was something I spent months ideating on and one whole month building, and it was copied just like that. But I also wondered if I should be feeling honoured instead, for they liked it so much that they wanted to make it their own (but who am I kidding, I’m no saint).

With uncanny timing, this really good article titled “Copying is the way design works” popped up on my feed, and it made me realise two things:

  1. Copying is inevitable in design.
  2. I too had taken inspiration from other sites as I was designing mine. While I don’t think my site is a copy of any of theirs, everyone draws the line between inspiration and copying differently. What if they regard mine as a copy?

Knowing this, annoyance as a response no longer made sense. As I continue working on making pretty things, there will always be copycats, and that’s okay. They can copy the work, but they can never copy the brand.

On design twitter, Linear’s landing page has been the talk of the town. They’ve defined and popularised a whole new style of landing pages which many have tried to copy. If you’re in the space I’m sure you’ve seen some of them. Some of these clones are beautiful, but if you ask me the name of these products, I got nothing. They have Linear’s landing page, but they don’t have Linear’s brand.

Moving forward, I think the logical thing to do is to focus on building my brand. I don’t really have a brand as of yet, but if I had to pick, I’d say I want to be known for building products that are fun and delightful to use, without compromising on quality.

Maybe I should print that out on a t-shirt.