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I’m Seeing a Pattern in Your Designs

Where do you get your textures for backgrounds? A lot of web designers use the ones from Squidfingers or make their own. Print designers for years have had another solution though and it’s one I recently just discovered when I complimented a designer on a piece he had just printed for a jewelry store. He uses fabric patterns he finds at fabric stores.

It’s brilliant, really. I mean, you just scan it in and clean it up. For the web you would need to rework it considerably to ensure it tiles in a nice way however it’s a great idea when you absolutely need something original. I’m sure it breaks several usage restrictions however that’s for the lawyers.

By Chris Tingom

Principal of Tornado Design, a Phoenix, AZ based web consultancy

24 replies on “I’m Seeing a Pattern in Your Designs”

Good work, Evan.

I don’t think anyone could assert that this is the end of original design. Using reference materials and elements designed by others to launch your own creations is *the norm*.

By what you’ve said, I assume that you created the designs you posted there. Nice! But are you the first person to create these designs, their style, and the elements within them? Hardly. They’re derivative of others’ previous work through the centuries. Not to minimize the hard work you’ve done, but that’s my point. By using designs used in fabrics/textiles you’re not being unoriginal or uncreative. You’re using things around you *to* create.

no, you’re scanning other people’s hard work and calling it your own. all of the patterns i created came out of my head, and yes, i was inspired and motivated by numerous objects around me, but not by copying someone else’s work.

“They’re derivative of others’ previous work through the centuries.”
they are inspired by styles (i.e. old victorian, etc.) throughout the ages, but not copied. the example you spoke of before where your friend straight-up copied someone else’s work, and used it as their own, is extremely unethical, and harmful.

so you could say i’ve copied some styles, but never anyone’s work.

and saying “I’m sure it breaks several usage restrictions however that’s for the lawyers.” is pretty harmful, and discourages actual work.

you speak of using fabric designs literally though, which implies copying them. there’s a difference between being inspired by objects and styles and copying someone else’s work to a T.

“By using designs used in fabrics/textiles you’re not being unoriginal or uncreative. You’re using things around you *to* create.”

reads literally to use someone else’s work. and by using, means copying it.

so say if i lifted your site design and layout, changed the wording in the logo and content copy, that’s not copying your work?

“By using designs used in fabrics/textiles you’re not being unoriginal or uncreative. You’re using things around you *to* create.”

reads literally to use someone else’s work. and by using, means copying it.

Now if you meant by using designs used in fabrics as inspiration to create your own work, then that’s fine, as long as nothing was plagiarized.

“so say if i lifted your site design and layout, changed the wording in the logo and content copy, that’s not copying your work?”

again…not remotely close to anything I’ve said. We’re in agreement across the board here and you seem to think otherwise. You seem to be getting hung up on the semantics of “using” and missing the point I was making. Which what it’s come down to. By “using”, yes, I mean “using as reference”. Which is what I said in my first post.

Hey guys, let me throw in some other thoughts:

1. If I were to take a photo of my office with monitors, keyboards clearly visible and use it in a stock photo (selling that photo) how does that fit in?

2. An obvious fabric or with a trademark visible. Or for example, the fabric from an Aeron chair. That’s clearly unique.

3. What about when I post a feature site and take a screenshot which I shrink down?

ah,i’ve gotten comfused since the last paragraph of this post refers to copying someone else’s work. “It’s brilliant, really. I mean, you just scan it in and clean it up.”

i don’t think chris was speaking about referencing the design, but copying straight from the source.

after re-reading your first comment, i see that it does in fact speak on inspiration rather than copying.

Just a quick follow up from my original post. Obviously for web use if you wanted to use fabric in a design it would need some serious cleanup and modifications to make it tile right. You’d basically have to re-create something.

Now the reason for this post was because I had seen a nice brochure a friend made and he got a pattern that he used as a background on one of the pages. I thought it was an interesting idea. That’s all. Obviously there are some serious copyright issues that you’d need to work out.

Very nice designs Evan!

A tool that creates repeating desings using any image (photos included) is a filter in the GIMP called Make Seamless. You go to Filter > Map > Make seamless and it makes a really cool tiling pattern. I’ve never made a desing and created a tiling patteren, but I think it could be used to do it.

I feel these posts warrant that we all look into http://creativecommons.org and see the many ways as creative professionals we can retain copyright on our work and still inspire work in others.

For a glimpse into the various ‘rights’ you can apply to your work, see http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/comics1

Evan, I believe that by posting your patterns online (even though you ask for permission to use) they are automatically entered into the “public Domain” available for use, unless otherwise stated by copyright/or some variation as seen on creative commons. You may want to look into this so as to avoid an “boiling blood” in the future. Nice patterns btw, and I agree with you on the direct copy issue, however, certain questions arise when confronting the issue of using others work and when it becomes modified enough to be called ‘yours’…for example:

1. What happens if I took a photograph with my camera of a computer screen displaying one of your patterns within your site and used it in a collage in an art show and sold the piece for 10,000$?…this is where the issue of placing things on the internet becomes a tad sticky.

2. The issue of file sharing is a heated one, but I’ll just propose a thought. If I purchase a White Stripes CD from Best buy, I am then granted the right to copy/rip it to my pc and burn back ups of the original data since I paid for the music. As a concerned consumer, am I not then entitled to protect my investment in the most efficient way possible, by say handing my backup copy to Chris to store in his possession in case of a fire/explosion in my apartment? Since it is also legel to loan your cd to a friend, I could tell Chris he is allowed to listen to the cd as long as he lets me know before hand so as I don’t accidentally listen to my original at the same time violating copyright.

3. Ahhh, the fabric store dilemna…what shall I come up with for this one…hmmm…Suppose you walk into a fabric store,and are handed a swatch book to take showing a wide variety of patterns/fabric..this is something that is handed to you for free, and as long as you do not ‘sell’ the swatches can distribute/use how you please.( I know I know, you still can’t copy the pattern)..but what happens when you scan the pattern or take a picture of it, or trace it with a pencil even…the digital information/sketch/photo is made up of entirely a “new” media/form. The output of the media is similar in visual look, but it itself is entirely something different. This raises the fact that a copyright then is not on the “delivery mechanism” for our work, but on the intillectual/creative property contained within it…which is essentially a copyright on an idea(translated visually/audibly/texturally/etc), no matter which way you slice it.

The point I am making is, everything around us, the pattern on your kitchen counter, the texture you see on your car seat, the sound of your horn in your car ar all ideas from people translated into thier current for, yet we don’t copyright things like this? I can go to a car dealer, tak a digital photo of the interior of a seat and overlay it on a design as a pattern and would not be in violation of any copyright. So where/how do we draw the line as a culture? Based on the current copyright system, everything and parts of everything around us are restricted and can’t be copied, but we allow somethings and not others.

this is the end of my rant 🙂
-j

Just responding to Jschin’s comments…

As far as copyrighting, when an artist creates any type of artwork, and has expressed their rights in said work, it is their work. Even thought it’s on the web (or printed) it is still owned by the artist. That’s been a long standing rule for many, many years. Creative Commons just came along and reiterated it, because digitally, it’s so easy to steal. But if you see a © , then it is completely protected.

1. Taking pictures of said pattern and using it in your own work (or redrawing it, etc.) – is completely legal. As long as the original file (or something extremely similar) is not taken and used without permission, then it somewhat legal. But be careful, i’ve known of people who took a photo of a random house and used it in advertising, and the homeowner saw the ads, sued the company and won. It’s a fine line.

2. As far as the CD copying goes, that’s all grey area. I hear it’s illegal to copy cd’s. At least a law was in the process of being passed for DVDs. And yes, you can loan a CD to someone, but they’re not suppossed to copy it. This has been debated for years since cassette tapes were released.

“The point I am making is, everything around us, the pattern on your kitchen counter, the texture you see on your car seat, the sound of your horn in your car ar all ideas from people translated into thier current for, yet we don’t copyright things like this?” It can be used for inspiration, but if you copy the pattern off your kitchen counter, then use it to produce your own kitchen counters for sale, that’s breaking copyright. (and you’ll probably get sued into oblivion).

Believe me, i’ve seen *plenty* of nasty copyright lawsuits in the creative world. If you create something that is even a tad similar as something else, there’s a good change you’ll get sued.

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