Well, I do and I don’t


As designers, I am sure that each and everyone of us have encountered a situation or thought that is relevant to the message of this poster. And since I found this poster I have been grappling with my thoughts and feelings over it. While half of me finds it liberating, the other half, well, just doesn’t know how to feel. So I guess I want to pose a question…What do you feel about it?


  1. Chris Ro says:

    I’d say I’d have to disagree to some extent. But I agree with the second half. I feel that there are original things. New ideas. New ways of doing things. As a process, as a group, this is how we progress. How we move forward. How we do things differently. How we solve problems. It is not old solutions for new problems. It is old problems, new solutions right?

    It is funny though that I see this today for I am lately just beginning to understand a bit more this philosophy Mr. Jarmusch is speaking to here. And this is what I agree with. “Authenticity is invaluable” I think people rip other things off all the time. And I think I would honestly have less problem with it if people just came true. I hear this all the time. “I was inspired by Jean-Luc Godard”. “I was inspired by Russian constructivism”. “I was inspired by Japanese emptiness”. People should just say it as is. I looked at this. I really dug it. So I took it and tried to run with it. No more use of the word “inspire”. It’s a seatbelt. An airbag. Protection. But protection from what? We are always often caught in saying the “right” thing as opposed to the “real” thing. And I think in this day and age, I would find it greatly refreshing to just hear the “real” thing for once. And it is funny, because if that were the case, perhaps that would actually be “original”.

  2. Clara Sims says:

    Yes! I agree..thats what I was struggling with “Nothing is original”, it just sounds so defeated, such a crutch. But what I think Jim is saying, and what I think Chris is also saying, is that we are all inspired by the past in some way or another, I mean, how can we not be? So lets allow ourselves to do that. And the past is a great jumping off point, but lets be real about it.

    Ahhhh, “protection for what”…now that is a good question…Each others judgments, from our own judgments, from the incredibly competitive design world, for our own insecurities, from the need to make a name for ourselves? It is different for each individual but i think that could be a very interesting thing to discover about yourself and I imagine that information will make us better designers in the long run.

  3. I agree. I think, as a student, it’s important to find design you like, try emulating it (dont post it in your portfolio if it’s a direct rip!) and understand how it’s made, why it works, and why you like it. Use what you learn from what you like to your advantage to continue to find and craft your own personal design style.

  4. Paul Lee says:

    While Jarmusch is probably right when he says that “Nothing is original”, I think what he’s suggesting – steal from others, just be authentic about it – is somewhat of a defeatist attitude. As a rule, I think starting off from a posture of “originality is non-existent” is a bad way to try to create original things. Better to begin by thinking that it is possible to do something new and try to create something that has never been done/seen before. Granted, the finished product will probably still be derivative of everything that has come before it. But maybe the boundaries get pushed out a bit further this way, than if we just engage in “authentic thievery”.

  5. James Chae says:

    I agree. This poster / quote causes due controversy. I’ve always felt a little offended by the ‘nothing is new under the sun’ mentality.

    I think that we’re coming to a point where the postmodern remix mentality is starting to wear. I really think that there’s such an ease to which we can steal without credit or due acknowledgment that people are just going to wisen up. So, I think that the next generation of creators, and maybe even mine, are going to push for a truthful creation of something new.

    I’ve always agreed more with the notion of ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants.’ An equal amount of reverence and progression is the way we should move forward.


  6. brian says:

    like most others, i half agree. i do think there is originality, but i think it is inspired originality. i am constantly being inspired by things i see. when i see new things, and by new i mean things i am seeing for the first time, not necessarily brand new, i usually think of what it reminds me of.

    i don’t think, “ohh he/she stole that idea from (insert whatever here)”

    it is just a reminder of other things. maybe things that have inspired the artist. or maybe it was just sheer coincidence.

    the only thing i didn’t like was the first sentence. i believe there is originality, and it is bred from inspiration.

  7. This poster is amazing: it manages to be both deeply cynical and all touchy-feely at the same time. So, points for that.

    I think there’s a massive grain of salt to be had with this. He’s telling you to “steal” from your own dreams, from trees, clouds and shadows. And the idea of being inspired by stuff you read, watch, overhear is nothing new. Haven’t artists and designers been making work that way for centuries?

    I think it’s impossible to not be influenced by the dominant culture in some way. Thinking that you can be entirely original seems like you’d just be setting yourself up for a nervous breakdown. And if your stuff is so out-there because you’re trying so hard not to be derivative, will it even be interesting? Will people be able to relate to it?

    But that said, I agree with James on this: the current trend of remixing old designs just for the sake of remixing things is seriously getting old. It’s a pretty boring conversation if you’re just parroting back what was said to you in the first place. I blame the Internet.

  8. Roberto Santellana says:

    I have to first begin by saying that I agree with a lot of what everyone is saying in regard to the idea of originality and the discussion each point begins to build upon.

    However, the dialectic of Originality through Authenticity is a complex topic and the various points made begin to illuminate the complexity of the argument.

    For example, we have looked at this topic from the perspective of the student, the post modernist critic, the author and the underlying psycho-analytic components of identity/ego. As we begin to exchange opinion I become a bit confounded by where to pick up the argument because of its multifaceted nature.

    So I will begin at face value. I whole-heartedly agree with the statement at hand, made by a director who had a huge influence on me as a young man for all he represented as an independent director and for the beautiful work he created.

    The fact that his statement is underscored by a quote from Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most important and influential directors of the 20th century, powerfully reinforces his opinion as a method of “Practice and Outcome”.

    What I see most in his statement, is an invitation, pregnant with possibilities, to engage with the world and extract from it all that is inspiring. Not a declaration to define what is or is not original or authentic.

    Nor do i see it as justification to blatantly steal a fully realized idea or reproduce a completed work by another author through minor modification and then claim it as one’s own.

    On the surface, it is easy to assign the meaning of “stealing”, to wrongly appropriating something that is not yours, however his directive to steal from your dreams, clouds, trees, lights and shadows, quickly shifts the idea of stealing from a literal, commonly understood explanation to a abstracted, more creative practice.

    The opinion also seems to ask the reader to intimately understand their world, their discipline, the work of their peers, in an attempt to become a better director, for Jarmusch or designer in the case of this conversation.

    Looking at this definition from this context and placing it into the cinematic milieu, we can begin to more carefully validate some of my points.

    If we begin to analyze Jarmusch’s films, or even Godard for that matter, we begin to see where they have both been inventive, original and where they have “stolen” ideas in the creation of their films.

    For Jarmusch, “Stranger than Paradise”, is a film he is both recognized and praised for. This film, it can be argued, is one of the best films of the 80’s and can is considered as one of the best 100 films of all time. As these types of accolades go, it is difficult to validate the subjectivity of such a claim, but what is communicated by these claims is that the film is considered a unique and authentic piece of work in the film world and by his esteemed and respected peers.

    Despite the accepted authenticity and uniqueness of “Stranger than Paradise, it is heavily influenced by “stolen” cinematic devices, used by such prominent neo-realist directors as Vittorio De Sica, Bergman, Bresson and Antonioni. However, these devices are used to amplify and enrich Jarmusch’s film, not used as substitutes for a lack of creativity.

    I feel that this type of well considered, self-reflective engagement with what we are creating is vital to the practice of “stealing with authenticity”, and an integral component of achieving “Originality”.

  9. I’m not sure how to take this statement. On one hand I’m completely offended, but on the other hand I’d have to agree to a certain extent. The world “steal” has many negative connotations and its interesting to replace that word in this statement with the word “appropriate.”

    Overall, I feel this statement is overtly cynical and in itself is completely unoriginal. We’ve all heard that everything has been done before and nothing is original, but if this statement is the only thing that drives our souls creatively we are doomed.

    Dreaming and believing your doing something “original” is part of the creative process. I don’t believe any engaging or interesting work would ever get made if we just appropriated (stole) everything. I do believe however that any artist, designer or musician needs to find work they look up to and figure out what made it great. There is a huge distinction between inspiration and blatant copying. Something I don’t feel this statement makes clear.

    The act of creating is more important to me than the outcome or “product” in many ways. I’d don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I felt I was “stealing” everything. We might as well be copy machines at that point.

    We can be inspired and moved by work we see. We can be influenced and produce work that looks the same or sounds the same, but its up to the individual to make it original.

  10. Molly McGee says:

    ooooh… good post Clara! Honestly, there is so much truth to this poster, why else study design history? Design should be studied, revisited, regurgitated, reinvented… it’s been that way for centuries, from Garamond to Greiman.

    Of course the “nothing is original” mantra should be taken with a grain of salt, there will always be new trends and new technologies.

    But, as always, there is a boundary. When corporations lift directly from artists or student designers without due credit or payment because some art director was feeling uninspired or under an impossible deadline? … well, that kind of “inspiration” is not so cool and happens all to often.

  11. Katie says:

    I like it.

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