SETsquared Blog

Great Artists Steal

“Good artists copy, but great artists steal”, Pablo Picasso

Throughout art history, artists have learnt from the old masters before them, in a constant painterly dialogue between old and contemporary techniques. Picasso, was the master of appropriating the artistic languages of artists of old and reforming them into a new radical style that people would identify as his own.

Picasso stole his name from a Citroën family car. 

Steve Jobs is well known to have once preached such a strategy, but slammed his competitors later in his career for supposedly stealing from Apple. The point and click mouse was an invention Jobs spotted in a top secret lab at Xerox Parc during a personal tour he managed to get. He saw this as the best solution for the user to navigate around a graphical interface (not yet available on home computers). Apple then released the Macintosh, the first successful personal computer to include a mouse. He had successfully made a stolen idea Apple’s own.

Why am I talking about copying and stealing? My Father has often told me there’s no such thing is an “original thought”. As a lover of beautiful product design, I find his dictum slightly disheartening. Is it true that any bold and creative idea we have is predestined to be a derivative of someone else’s product? At inMotion, as we go through the exciting process of developing and designing what will be the world’s smallest intelligent golf swing analyser, currently known as the EchoSwing, one way or another we may be guilty of copying or stealing part of someone’s idea. Therefore, the task we have set ourselves is to cast the net far and wide for our inspiration. The impact that any one source has on our design process is consequently diluted. (We are currently using a cheap snow globe from Paris as one source of inspiration for the way our users will interact with the device).

paris snow globe

In the end, if a company can’t be original, is it so bad to resort to stealing the best ideas, but executing your product delivery more effectively and selling more than your competition? Until recent years, Microsoft certainly did well by this strategy*. 

*if we are to take Jobs’ view on Apple’s arch rival company.