Why Be Original?

I’ve been a strong supporter and enthusiastic member of Be Original Americas since its first founding days. “Be Original Americas is a non-profit creative advocacy committed to informing, educating, and influencing manufacturers, artisans, design professionals, and consumers about the economic, ethical, and environmental value of authentic design.” This week, BOA asked us all, “Why Be Original?” I’ve been full of thoughts, trying to think of a way to capture my feelings about this in just one sentence. So, I’m writing this blog post and hoping a sentence or concise thought will emerge!

My first reaction to “Why Be Original?” is ethically focused, how could one NOT BE original? I can’t imagine not having my constant flow of creative ideas rushing through my head. Why would one ever copy when there’s such a plethora of creative ideas bursting in one’s own mind? When I look at other artists’ work, whether it be paintings, product design, wallpaper, textiles, jewelry, I am certainly gathering ideas and adding to my visual library, but I don’t even think about copying. That would take all the fun out of it, and how could one stand by a design that they copied? The thrill of coming up with a new original design is that it’s 100% all yours, and you know the meaning behind it. At RISD, we were instilled with the philosophy that every design must have meaning. So, to me, I don’t feel a design with my name on it even works unless I know the meaning behind it, and it is reflected in my finished work. There’s ALWAYS a meaning, story, or inspiration behind every design I create, even if a pattern might appear to be just a simple stripe or grid.   

I am so thankful for this training I had at RISD. It has enabled me to look at my own design work objectively and not to worry about what others think. This is not a truth in my personal life! I’m often self conscious and worried about what others think of me, my personality, my looks, and have fear of missing out, etc. BUT with design I’m completely confident. I don’t let a design come to its fruition and present it to a customer, unless I feel it’s balanced and representative of my design intent. It either works or it doesn’t, and I just know when it doesn’t. This can be a curse- when under a deadline or bombarded with a huge to do list, and a design just isn’t working.  I’ve had to scrap hours of tedious work at the last minute after putting on my critic’s hat and realizing it’s just not there. It’s a tough call, but in the end, not really because there’s no way I’d feel good presenting to a client if I didn’t feel good about the work.  

So, I’m thinking that my response to “Why Be Original?” is that If I’m not original in my design practice, I couldn’t possibly feel good about my work, myself, or my entire business. Personally, I can’t NOT be original! Original design and authenticity is who I am and is what I’ve based my entire career around, and it’s something that is just inside of me. I LOVE being a member of BOA because of its mission stated above, but perhaps equally meaningful for me is to be surrounded by fellow creatives who stand by their authentic art and practice this philosophy every single day. They inspire me and I’m proud to be standing amongst them.   

Shown above:  Gridlock from my Transbay series. This pattern was inspired by my frequent commute over the Bay Area bridges; Gridlock is about that sound, the thumping repetitive noise that vibrates in a steady rhythm (babump babump) as one crosses the bridge.