While living in Houston, I often passed Harolds men's department store in the Heights. There was something so familiar about the name and the logo's upright, casual, mid-century script, but I couldn't place it at first. Then, one day, I glanced over at the old Harrods of London biscuit tin sitting on my bookshelf, and I thought "gotcha." Now that I'm in San Francisco, I have that same mnemonic experience every time I take the bus up Van Ness and pass Harris' Steakhouse on the corner of Pacific.
I've been thinking about copyright infringement a lot. I took one media law class in college, and although I spent many-a-lecture doodling in the margins of my notebook, I came away with one distinct impression: nothing is original. Depressing? Yeah. But also liberating. Of course, this in itself is a totally non-original concept, but I felt as though I'd tapped into something major. I was able to stop worrying whether or not someone else had already executed my oh-so-brilliant idea, and concentrate on elevating that idea. In other words, this was my motivation to "make it better."
Lately, I've realized that complacency is the number one pitfall of acknowledging "nothing is original." Quite often, a client will innocently request something that goes like this: "I want a logo that's classy. Let's use the Cadillac font." Or: "We're looking for an instant icon, like the I-heart-NY design." Then, when I present my logomark of staggering genius, the response is, "Um. Where's the heart?"