They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I say, imitation is inherent to all animals, including humans. We learn to walk by imitating others, we learn to talk by imitating others, all the skills that we gain in our learning process we get by imitating someone else. But while we are growing up, we take a little bit of what we imitate from one source and a little bit from another source and we build our own personality. And then we become an individual. The same applies to creative endeavours: we see something that inspires us, we replicate it to try to understand it and then we add our own personality and create something new. But, do we?
Quoting Iris Apfel: “There’s so much sameness these days. Everything is homogenized. I hate it.” Everywhere you look singers are singing the same songs, designers are designing the same clothes, high street shops are selling the same styles and even we photographers are taking the same photos over and over again. Imitating and getting inspired by others is not bad, it’s part of the creative process. But repeatedly photocopying what sells more or what magazines want more or what made someone else successful or famous is making this world boring.
Vivienne Westwood famously encouraged aspiring designers to copy, copy, copy in order to learn new techniques. But once you have mastered the craft, you have to add your personal touch. You can find inspiration anywhere, even outside of your industry. Like Anna Wintour said “I really think you have to go out and see things - screenings, theatre, exhibitions (…) Every time you go out, even a walk in the street, you have an idea.”
My former boss used to say that trying to be the best at something is the easy path; you just have to do it better than the rest. But the challenge lies in trying to be different, doing what no one else is doing. Instead of offering our clients the same thing that everyone else is offering only at a different rate, our aim should be to offer something different. Let’s all take a few minutes to review our body of work and compare it to what everyone else is doing. Does it stand out? Does it get lost in the crowd? Does it have a soul?
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