Digital Design and the Risk of Copycat Creative

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Is the internet killing creativity?

Every week, the Creative team at FortyFour gathers together to hear a “creative inspiration” presentation from one of our designers or writers (this used to be in person, of course, but lately it’s been via Zoom). Art Director Monica Misiak recently gave a talk that warned us of the ways the internet can impose a sameness on design if we aren’t careful.

For example, take a look at these four popular brands’ logos from about ten years ago (at top) and then how their logos look today (bottom).

Notice anything? Ten years ago, the logos were distinct from each other, with different typefaces and other design elements. The new logos are visually more appealing, but they all lack personality, especially when seen next to each other.

They have similar, sans serif fonts and simplified visuals. Goodbye, knight of Burberry, and Domino’s domino has shrunk. Everything looks soft and simplified, easy to spot as a phone icon (which, of course, is partly the point).

It’s all so bland and similar.

This shows the risks designers face when they look online for inspiration. We all love to peruse our favorite design sites for ideas and thought-starters, but if we all look in the same place, we run the risk of replicating the same ideas over and over.

You can’t be a trendsetter if you’re following trends.

The takeaway: If you want to create work that’s truly original and innovative, you shouldn’t start with your computer as a reference point. Pinterest, Muzli, Awwwards, and Instagram are great resources, sure, but if that’s the extent of your creative exploration, you’re setting yourself up for copycat “creativity.”

Get out into the world and find inspiration beyond your computer and smartphone. Maybe it’s an old concert poster that will inspire your next great idea. Or a mural you see on a long walk. Or a book. Maybe you’ll find the idea when you’re actively looking for it, but just as likely you’ll stumble upon it when you least expect it.

Just be sure you aren’t staring at a screen the whole time.

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