Stealing Design

Friday, July 2, 2004 at 8:02 pm | Comments off

Andy Budd's recent post got me thinking about what constitutes a "pirated site". I'll re-iterate a bit of what I said in the comment's on Andy's site and will also share my views a bit more extensively.

I have a real problem with some of the sites listed on Pirated Sites. They occasionally accuse people of pirating a site, when quite frankly, the similarity is slight. Sometimes they resemble each other so little that if you weren't going to the sites thinking that one copied the other, you wouldn't make the connection. I'll use the same example that Andy did: Wildy Sophisticated (the original) and Rogue Chopper (the copy). A copy? Really? I don't think so!

Take a look at these two articles by Cameron Moll:

Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal
Nodes of design inspiration

Both articles are spot on, in my opinion. Whether you or I like to admit it, we "steal" from each other. And I don't see this as wrong. The important thing to remember is to only copy the inspiration, not the complete design. Obviously there is a point where stealing the inspiration goes too far, and it does indeed become a pirated site. However, often times people jump the guns a bit on calling a site pirated.

It's easy to get upset when you see even a bit of your design work copied elsewhere, but when that happens, let's take a step back and objectively look at what exactly was copied. Perhaps we'll see that in reality it's not as much of a direct copy as it may have first seemed.

Obviously I'm not condoning stealing someone's design. We work hard to create a design that is our own and really don't like to see someone take that from us. But, we need to remember that if someone is simply inspired by our design, and blends elements from that design with other unique elements it's probably more of an original design than some seem to admit. Not everyone thinks outside the box and revolutionizes design. Most of the time we simply copy what we have seen elsewhere and blend many designs into one, until we have created something original.


July 2nd, 2004
9:00 PM | #

There's a world of difference between stealing a single design element, like Cameron Moll suggests, and stealing an overall look.

Take the edges of this white area on your webpage for instance, it looks like you were inspired by; maybe you were, maybe you weren't. But only a madman would call your design a rip off of

July 2nd, 2004
10:09 PM | #

Yes, but it's very hard to distinguish sites like blogs as alot of them follow the same format...

Zach Blume
July 2nd, 2004
10:45 PM | #

I would agree with those articles. My sites new design started off with a copy, but then I got premmision from Verlee( to use the base CSS--You can see my site ( doesn't look totaly like Verlee's site anymore (

I think I got it basically right -- Or at least I got the O.K.

July 3rd, 2004
5:06 AM | #

When I worked in sales we had a motto of "steal from the best." I look at designs and get various ideas all the time. After I pick an idea to use, I still take the time and effort to try and make it my own. Like Thomas said, stealing a single idea is one thing, stealing the whole idea is another.

Fernando Dunn II
July 5th, 2004
8:43 AM | #

I agree that the site is no where near being a rip-off. There aren't even any definite influences, unless something was altered.

I agree with Cameron Moll's articles about using what exists.

I recently borrowed from SimpleBits. I had a problem trying squeeze content into homepage. I wanted a portfolio sample, description of the site, and a blog entry on the same page. I fancied the Stopdesign method, then I remembered the new addition on SimpleBits. My method of coding of it didn't work well in all browsers, so I just went on and completely used the 'definition' tags as Dan Cederholm did. I hate that my colors are brownish-orange, blue, and white. I'll problably end up changing them soon to keep from feeling like a rip-off.

July 6th, 2004
1:19 AM | #

I've learned a lot by looking at various CSS site layouts -- including yours, Ryan. ;) I tend to learn by example, rather than documents (though both are of great help).

By the way, someone should ask the Pirate Captain about his browser update page...

July 6th, 2004
11:34 AM | #

Someone should pirate That would be a slap in the face, wouldn't it?

Zache... Veerle's site looks strikingly similar a default design that is given with copies of Dreamweaver. I guess everyone is borrowing from everywhere!

July 6th, 2004
11:37 AM | #

BTW.. The form highlighting in kick-ass. How'd you do it? Javascript?

Daniel Tomasiewicz
July 6th, 2004
11:45 AM | #


And I too was amazed to see that anyone even thought that Rogue Chopper looked like Wildly Sophisticated! I mean, they aren't even the tiniest bit close!

July 6th, 2004
7:11 PM | #

"It's all been done."

Well said, Ryan.

Veerle Pieters
July 7th, 2004
12:15 PM | #

@Phoat: I would schedule an appointment with the eye doctor if I were you :-) First I never have looked at any of those templates, didn't even know they were in there and second the only arguable fact could be my navigation buttons, but then again they are still different. Strikingly similar is way over the top, my whole site doesn't look like anything in there. I agree that everybody get inspirited by looking around and borrowing some design elements but what you're suggesting is too ridiculous for words. I would appreciate that in future you look a little closer before making such silly remarks.

Chuck Spidell
April 18th, 2005
7:40 AM | #

"It's all been done."

Not Yet. There are plenty of uncharted seas in design so I have to disagree with that statement. But yes, clearly there is a difference between copying and/or hotlinking someone's graphics on your website and design inspiration.

December 8th, 2005
2:58 AM | #

Has someone stolen your template design or theme, maybe your logo – if so post about them here! Don’t let someone rip-off your site, let others know.

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