Recently I’ve met two young designers who use objects discarded by others as the starting point for their work. It’s really got me thinking about the importance – or otherwise – of originality.
Marnee from Betty Fox embellishes second-hand jackets with quirky designs in vibrant, shimmering silks, while Angus from AHW Creations takes old watch mechanisms and ‘upcycles’ them to create cufflinks, necklaces and other industrial jewellery.
The style of their work might be poles apart, but their shared passion for developing thriving businesses from their stunning creative work really inspired me.
Does it matter that their creativity is inspired by objects that already exist? Not to me; the same thing happens in my own work all the time. (I guess the fact that they’ve inspired me to write this is evidence of that!)
But Marnee and Angus create physical, tangible products. Things of beauty that people can hold in their hands. Would we feel any differently about their creativity if they crafted nebulous things – like copywriting, marketing campaigns or business logos – based on work others had come up with before them?
The concept of mimicking the behaviours and business practices of others is used quite often in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), where it’s termed modelling and is a common strategy for replicating the success of others.
But as this forum thread shows, not everyone agrees that copying, amending or adapting the work of others is a form of creativity. I’m certainly not advocating plagiarism or blatantly ripping off others’ ideas, but I confess that I am often genuinely inspired by adaptations and innovations that springboard from existing platforms.
Want more articles like this? Check out the innovation section.
Similarly, by constantly trying to match and surpass the work of others in my field, I feel my own work gets stronger. I guess that’s my own form of upcycling.
But then, that could be because I rarely have a truly creative idea of my own that genuinely appears out of the blue.
How about you? Are you an innovator, or like me, more of a renovator? And how do you feel about creative upcycling? I’ll be interested in your comments on what you think about business innovation.