Plagiarism or Inspiration?

Plagiarism Under the Cover of Inspiration?

Research shows that designers and architects have been facing the menace of plagiarism for ages. The instances are on the rise in the digital world. There’s is a constant rush to achieve more and more in lesser time, leading to compromises on originality. The problem of insufficient guidelines and policies related to copying is adding to the fire. A lot get reveals on the issue as eminent architects & designers discuss the subject on the stage of The Talk of Town, Delhi.

As the thin line of difference between copying and inspiration is rapidly blurring, architects and designers are left baffled and finding new ways to cater to the situation.

Plagiarism in Design


We have become very mechanical. Our minds and hearts have stopped working. There is no tandem between them. We don’t have the luxury of time and add to that the issue of lack of clarity and ambiguity. All these things are leading to more instances of copying. - Vikas Jha, JSL Lifestyle 

Inspiration, Not Imitation

According to Ar Ranna Parikh, “Plagiarism is a kind of inspiration as far as interior designers are concerned.” Sharing an interesting anecdote on plagiarism, she says, “When I started my career, I had to design for a client. So, I did my research and went to the client to show the design. He looked at it and said, ‘Hafeez Contractor?’. I had seen the design in the Inside Outside Magazine and copied it.” In my defense, I said, “I thought first I will show you my design and then improve upon it.” The client said, “It’s ok. At least you copied from the best.” That day I learned a lesson - ‘It’s ok to be inspired, but one must evolve his or her own style.’

“When I eventually met Hafeez Contractor, I told him about the incident and he said, ‘I feel flattered. It’s good to know that someone appreciates your work so much that they want to replicate it.’” That incident gave me another perspective on Plagiarism. “Plagiarism is a crime, but it could give a good feeling too.”

Over the years, clients have become more demanding. Architects and designers, these days frequently face situations where the client comes with a Pinterest image and demands a similar design. In that case, the architects and designers sometimes succumb to the pressure. However, instead of totally giving in, the experts agree that the designer must make an effort to convince the client that the existing design can serve as a point of reference, but it has to be modified as per the current context. This contextualisation can make the design unique for his/her project. The use of unique methods and materials can also keep plagiarism out of the design.

We completely agree with Ar Snehal Joshi of Snehal Joshi Architects, when he says, “It’s not possible for human beings to make an exact copy of anything. That’s god’s work. They can only get inspired and contexualise the design.”

How Much is Too Much?

Where do you draw the line between inspiration and copying? Straight lift-offs are a complete NO. As Ar Parikh puts it, “In design, there cannot be straight lift off as every site is different, every client, situation or requirement is different. Eventually, you have to contextulaise the design.” Ar Arpan Shah of Modo Designs, seconds the thought by saying, “We all see the same things but we need to contextualise. We can use designs as a reference, but we need to channelise and find our own expression.”

Conclusion? No Conclusion...

Plagiarism, undoubtedly, is unstoppable. With architects and designers now spending more time with laptops and smartphones than pencil and paper, originality of designs is facing a threat of being spread, copied and imitated. ‘Inspiration’ is subduing the negative connotation associated with ‘Imitation’, but it’s very important to understand, "Where to draw the line?”. When looking at inspiration, it’s important for designers to consider whether they are learning from the inspiration, plagiarising or creating something new from it. Someone has rightly said that plagiarism can give temporary ‘speed’ to someone’s work, but ‘respect’ can be earned only when something significantly original is attempted and a new design dialogue is created.

The main difference between good designers and great designers is how they can elevate the sources of their inspiration and make the end result stand out as a great inspiration for others.

The discussion doesn't end here. To explore more, read the full story in the June 2019 Issue of Surfaces Reporter Magazine.

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