Steal Like An Artist

Picasso said: “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal”.

This controversial quote is more relevant than ever in today’s design industry. We now live in a world where the majority of things we need to survive have already been invented or designed. And no, you don’t really need that iPad.

Fortunately, there is a lot more to this quote than “stealing” art. If we dive deeper into the thinking behind the quote, as Austin Kleon did in his book: How To Steal like an Artist, we find ourselves navigating the waters of creativity, ideas and everything else in between.

Steal Like An Artist - Good theft vs. Bad Theft Poster

Steal Like An Artist - “Be boring”

The problem with such books is that they tend to be a rehash of existing concepts. But after glancing at the excerpts above, I find myself agreeing with a lot of Austin’s insights. Inspirational stuff. Check it out at Amazon of via your iBook store.

Work like a slave; command like a king; create like a god. ~ Constantin Brâncuşi

I had almost forgotten this quote, one of my favorites, by Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. It was, and still is, my motto for success for any designer or individual working in the creative industry. I feel so inspired when I reflect on this quote in context with the things that I do. I hope you will to.

Thanks for the reminder Justin!

If you can’t see the video above, please click on this link.

Check out this great little video, by Aaron Trinder, on how designers or creative people work within a space and how this may impact how we design desks in the future. Some food for thought?

Suitably inspired, I though I might also share my space at home with you. It’s mid way between clean and cluttered. I’m a working pile kind of person as you can see with the stacks of mail, books I’m reading and a sketchbook etc. on the right. Up top (not in the picture) we have two shelves of books. I’ve got a broadband modem, jacked into my laptops for maximum speed, seated next to a bank of power plugs. I’ve also got a bag of munchies for my late night cravings. Yes it’s 12.13am here.

Via: Herman Miller.

Clive Thompson, in his column on Wired, dispels the myth that innovation comes as a surprise and is difficult to predict. He writes:

The assumption is that breakthroughs are inherently surprising, so it takes special genius to spot one coming.

But that’s not how innovation really works, if you ask Bill Buxton. A pioneer in computer graphics who is now a principal researcher at Microsoft, he thinks paradigm-busting inventions are easy to see coming because they’re already lying there, close at hand. “Anything that’s going to have an impact over the next decade—that’s going to be a billion-dollar industry—has always already been around for 10 years,” he says.

Buxton calls this the “long nose” theory of innovation: Big ideas poke their noses into the world very slowly, easing gradually into view.

Makes a lot of sense if you think about it. If we study paradigm-changing products, such as the Nintendo DS or the iPod, the technology within them is really nothing new, just the application.

This is why truly billion-dollar breakthrough ideas have what Buxton calls surprising obviousness. They feel at once fresh and familiar. It’s this combination that lets a new gizmo take off quickly and dominate.


If you want to spot the next thing, Buxton argues, you just need to go “prospecting and mining”—looking for concepts that are already successful in one field so you can bring them to another.

So that’s the trick! Innovation happens when we reinterpret or reframe familiar technology in a manner that people will find refreshing. But wait a minute? Is reframing not the role and key value of designers?

I think it is time to share one of my all-time favorite quotes with you. A quote that perfectly compliments this discussion as well as succinctly describes what designers do:

Thus the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

Synergies, my friends, synergies!

Via: Wired.

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