How Not to Copy Other's Work

Tips on how not to copy (aka steal)

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp


Recently, I learned that my entire content, material, methodologies, and even slides of the design trainings I had spent years developing were copied and used by two individuals without any permission. Whether this was wrong or right is up to others to decide. We all need inspiration, but most of us are educated and civilised enough to have a basic common sense on how to copy and how not to.

On the positive side, I had some free time on a flight and this event inspired me to write a general reflection on copying others’ work.

Credits to Nesli Hazal Akbulut and Tanel Kärp.

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp

Ask for permission, it always works.

Real educators are passionate about sharing their experience with others and nothing is more satisfying for them than seeing their knowledge is being spread and is creating impact. Instead of putting so much time into copying their work and then trying to hide it, you can just spend a minute or two to ask for permission for sharing their knowledge. The answer is always a yes.

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp

If you copy, try and make it better.

Unlike those who are just used to always steal, the creators put time and heart into their work. It disappoints them when someone tries and yet manages to present a bad version of their words, vision, and visualisations. On the other hand, if you are able to show them an evolution of their work, they may be inspired by you and will definitely see that as a contribution. If done properly copying can be justified and acceptable too.

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp

Change the colors… at least.

If you are too lazy to apply an alternative color pallet when copying someone else’s material then why not pushing the combination of Command + Shift + 3 on Mac (or PrtScn on Windows) and capturing a screenshot instead? Please don’t make it hard for the owner to recognise which one is the original and which one is the rip-off. I always encourage new designers to practice “visual design” by copying and reproducing other’s design so they can learn the principles. I believe copying can be an effective learning method for visual design but only for learning purposes, not in a professional context, and definitely not for both content and the visuals.

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp

Question author’s vision and words.

If you blindly copy the author’s words you may be discounting the fact that the author, like any other human being, could have been wrong about his/her own vision. No one is always %100 right about everything, so it is never wise to copy things literally. And it is just sad if you call yourself an “educator” but don’t even bother developing your own point of view about things.

Nesli Hazal Akbulut Tanel Kärp

Maybe design isn’t for all of us.

If you are responsible to promote creativity and original thinking and you are unable to do it yourself then maybe you shouldn’t force it upon you. The good news is that there are so many other options out there: That medical specialist, that amazing hard-working construction worker, that engineer, or the lovely lady who sells homemade cookies in the market are all equally valuable for the society and well respected by everyone. They are good at what they do because they are honest with themselves when it comes to their capabilities. …and the final word: “Confidence” leads you to be an Original Thinker ,“Insecurity “ results in you copying, copying ,… and again copying.

Read more here