Why we see a lot of similar designs these days
All designers have, at one point heard this famous saying by Picasso which goes like “Good artists copy, Great artists steal”. This phrase changed people’s perspective with a great deal. It has a lot of interpretations and is extensively used in the design world too(replace artists with Designers). But why would someone as authentic as Picasso use such a phrase or at least promote such thinking?
“What Picasso did mean was that great artists rummage through the great junk heap of lost, bypassed, and forgotten ideas to find the rare jewels, and then incorporate such languishing gems into their own personal artistic legacy… Picasso implied that great artists don’t get caught stealing because what they appropriate they transform so thoroughly into their own persona, that everyone ends up thinking the great idea was theirs in the first place.”
My goal is to uncover a possible interpretation. This interpretation involves two different levels of design, each of which:
- involves copying or cloning or
- adapting and taking inspiration
If you are new to the field of design, don’t think that you’ll be able to create without copying from existing creators. Actually one of the first things for anyone new to the field is to follow someone already in the field and try and replicate their designs. Surprisingly, there’s a positive side effect of copying: conventionality. Building on the same foundation as other sites — specifically, layout and information architecture — often leads to intuitiveness and familiarity for the end-user. In simple terms you have something that the users are already comfortable in using, this will require lesser user research and save time as well. The reason that so many companies are adopting this style is that it helps them in focussing on other aspects of their platforms, and also helps them in saving money used in designing. By no mistake do BarnesAndNoble.com and Amazon.com have similar navigation structures!
The main reason for this is that there are so many apps and websites these days that people are just done with new ideas. But developers are increasing day by day so what should they do? They try to create better versions of existing things in the market. This way the ideation phase just gets deleted and the just have to make the platform better faster and more reliable. And this is why you can find replication of so many applications and websites these days. Just make existing stuff better and you have a chance to a 100M downloads or users.
Given the time constraints and budget limitations that designers face, copying is almost mandatory. But this doesn’t stop you from being creative. There are two types of copying, one is blunt wherein you try to literally make an indistinguishable clone, and the second one being smart copying where you try to replicate all the essential details but change physical parameters like color, size, etc to make it look like it’s something new, not only this but you try to introduce certain new functionalities as well which gives the website or app an advantage over its competitors.
This is what happened with JioMeet as well. They saved hours in making a new design by copying Zoom’s UI. They copied almost everything but with a different shade of color, as you can see in the screenshot below. If you notice they even added a help section in the bottom navigation which gives an added usability to the user if he has any questions regarding the app.
Not only this they added features that were missing in the Zoom app. JioMeet allows 100 participants on a call on its free tier, but unlike Zoom, it doesn’t have the 40 minute limit for such calls. This is where JioMeet comes handy initially, you can continue the meeting with 100 members for up to 24 hours. Jio is pushing the service as a tool for enterprises, which pits it against services like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Cisco’s WebEx platforms too. In the growing market of applications where make in India is being promoted a lot and Indians are trying to create their own apps and reduce the use of foreign apps, Jio will surely be a tough contender to beat in the Indian market.
No matter how much you try to copy, the piece that you produce in the end is going to be one of a kind.
The second aspect of designing which should be followed is being original. Originality doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t take inspiration. Remember every individual has to begin from somewhere you can’t be expected to create something out of the blue, without even knowing the context of what you need to create.
Taking inspiration from others is the first step to designing a product. Most of the time when I am working on designing new stuff for a project I tend to research a lot. My research period might be 5x the development period. The reason being that when you research extensively you tend to look for a lot of problems that users faced with existing designs, and also find inspiration from a lot of good designs as well. Mix it all well, and boom! “You know what you have to make and how you have to make it.” After that, it’s just a matter of hours before you are able to complete your design.
Not only this but you can even steal from your ideas too. Think about it. You probably have a folder on your hard drive that contains dozens of designs that were never used or completed. You’ve created designs that have been a success with clients. And more importantly, your distinctive design style is probably a selling point for many of your clients.
The thing that will remain the same is the originality of your design since you are the one who made it in the first place. If you take a look at my portfolio you will find a lot of projects that I worked on have similarities. The reason being that those certain designs were the highlights of my work for my clients, and thus that gives me an edge to reuse it maybe in the same way or with some tweaks.
There are a lot of reasons due to which you may think that copying is bad. But trust me when I say this, smart copying will help you win over more clients. The reason for this is that the client may not realize that you have copied but in the back of the mind, he is somewhat familiar with the UI already so there would be a better understanding of the User Interface.
What do you think about this?