spreading the wisdom: “DIY is not ‘Duplicate it Yourself'”

I have seen this article linked on a few other blogs in the last few days, and I usually don’t like rehashing what I know is already out there… but I think this article is important enough to continue spreading around in case you haven’t already seen it. It’s a great article from Decor8 entitled Real Talk: DIY is not Duplicate it Yourself!

I see a lot of personal interpretations of DIY ideas, especially in the wedding world, but for every unique interpretation I’d bet there are ten more blatant rip-offs. As a designer, I have most definitely been asked to replicate something another designer has created, and my answer has always been a resounding “no”; after all, I hope that other designers would do me the same courtesy if someone asked them to replicate one of my original designs. When it comes to individuals replicating something for themselves, though (meaning they do not intend to resell it), it is still a slippery slope — particularly when those projects are blogged about. Even if “inspiration” credit is still given, that doesn’t necessarily make it okay to have stolen someone’s design.

Inspiration and copying are two very different things, and I’ve seen a lot of copies in blogland that have made me really uncomfortable.

Here’s an excerpt from the post on Decor8 that I find particularly notable:

“Perhaps some people feel like their homemade invitation (or cake or dress or bouquet or centerpiece or curtains or pillow…) that looks exactly like the original couldn’t possibly change anything in the world or hurt someone else. While I think that the vast majority of bloggers understand the difference between inspiration and copying, and act professionally and ethically, I’m not sure that many are doing an excellent job of pointing out the difference—and the real effect that copying has on the people behind the businesses that supply creative content and products—to readers. The simple fact is that when somebody decides to “duplicate it yourself” (instead of getting inspired to “do it yourself”) it hurts a real person.

Check out the original post on Decor8 to read more.

What is your stance on “Do It Yourself” versus “Duplicate It Yourself”? Do you think anything is fair game, or do you make sure to put your personal spin on any ideas you use as inspiration?


  1. Great post! I hadn't gotten the chance to see the article yet, but I'm glad I have now! I agree that a LOT of people tend to creep up on the line between inspired and flat copied. I know I have found myself getting close (if even not intentionally!). I also think that unfortunately there are people out there who want to take credit for things and blame others for copying when the idea was not really theirs to begin with. I remember when I first started planning coming across a small blog with a big rant about being very upset that people were "copying" her idea of a blurb guestbook. She probably wasn't the first, and certainly won't be the last to do one. I am flattered when readers on the bee tell me they got an idea from me, or did something the way I did. But I am no where near the level of designing ANYTHING the way you do(want to make your birdcage look like mine? go ahead!). If I put all my energy into designing a whole invitation suite only to find it duplicated almost exactally with no credit, I doubt I would take it well. In fact, I would be angry pants. So kudos to you (and other designers) that continue to put their work out there even with the risk of being ripped off. I don't think I would be as brave!
    ok, enough blabbering! just my two cents :)

    (I just remembered that I completely copied Emily's guestbook wish bowl. But does it count since no one really paid attention to it and she came to my wedding and saw it!? Sorry Emily :( I feel like a big ass now!)

  2. Kate, I think an IDEA like a Blurb guestbook is fair game — if all of the photos inside are completely copied and re-staged, though, THAT would be unethical to me. And I think the guestbook wish bowl idea was okay for you to borrow :) Again, it's an idea, not a visual rip-off!

    Also I think people doing DIY with their own unique idea, blogging about it, and having others copy it is a slightly different situation. If their original design is not something that earns them a living, I don't think it's necessarily unlawful when people copy it, though it is unfortunate and disappointing; also, in lots of situations, bloggers will give a tutorial, in which case they have to assume that people may follow their advice :)

    The problem for me is when people find professional invitation designs, dress designs, etc. and try to replicate them entirely. That's taking someone's livelihood and originality and calling it your own. Not okay. If you find a design you love, you should respect the original designer enough to either purchase the design from them, or, if you can't afford it, use it as inspiration for your own unique design while being careful NOT to copy it.

  3. Thanks for making me feel a bit better about my stealing ideas :) I'm with you on the copying part, I should clarify to say that I think some people try to take it too far. I guess what I was trying to say is that if I were in a position like yours as a professional designer (or even before I knew you were a pro, and I just thought you were super good showing off your skills on WB) I would be maaaad if people were flat out stealing ideas from me. Designers that take the rip offs with a grain of salt are better than I would be for sure :)

  4. Good questions. I saw this article too, and I'm really glad it's circulating since it makes some good points and it's something we all need to think about. Myself included! I realize now that I do a lot of JCrew and Anthropologie knock-offs, and I don't feel bad for getting the look for way cheaper, but I suppose it's different for large companies? Or should I feel guilty about infringing on intellectual property?

  5. Hmmm, this post made me stop and think for a minute. While planning my wedding, I considered a Do-It-Myself project as anything that I decided to not spend (extra) money on and actually create by hand or on my own without the help of a professional.

    I think most people feed off other inspirations, but there's an absolute difference between borrowing ideas and stealing a designer's design.

    I see it the same way I see writing. It's one thing to borrow ideas and thoughts, but straight-up copying someone's work and claiming it as your own is a completely different story.

    Very interesting post!

  6. I like to borrow ideas from other brides and don't think there's anything wrong with it… heck, your entire wedding was gorgeous, who wouldn't want to get ideas from that? :) But I do think adding your own spin on someone elses design is key. I would want my wedding to be a reflection of who my fiance and I are, not another couple. Great post.

  7. I saw this post on Decor8 and think it's a great one. I never thought about it in those exact terms. I'd agree that hopefully one can take an idea and be inspired and put their own twist on it or order the original if you want an exact replica.

  8. I got a ton of inspiration looking at wedding and party planning blogs and walking around Paper Source. (pssst – I loved your use of the 'artisan label' shape and the teal. Your graphics and that fab font were gorgeous! Your eye for detail was so inspiring.)

    The only thing I blatantly copied was a line I saw on an RSVP card:
    "promise to dance if you play _______________"
    It was perfectly worded and helped us involve our guests in making a playlist.
    People had never seen something like that before and raved. But the design, layout and color scheme of the invitations was all me. Done at the last minute/late night on my little home printer. :)

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