This is not a copy - 'Design between innovation and imitation'

An exhibition to analyse the relationship between innovation and imitation in design.

From 27th November 2016 to 26th February 2017, the CID (Centre for Innovation and Design) is organising an exhibition entitled 'Ceci n'est pas une copie - Design entre innovation et imitation' (This is not a copy – Design between innovation and imitation) at Grand-Hornu.

The event will be highlighting the nature, meaning and acceptance of quotation, collage, reinterpretation, imitation and reproduction strategies in design activities.

A reflection on "copy" that is useful for all businesses calling upon designers and likely to be confronted with the issue. It is all the more relevant at a time when digital copying-pasting and 3D printing offer an uncannily easy move from inspired imitation to piracy and plagiarism.   

Copying is often represented as contrary to innovation and, as such, both unacceptable and illegal. However, it is not quite as simple and clear-cut a question as it seems. The event will focus on the following creative copying strategies: 

  • A copy can be deliberate and used as a search tool or a means of reflection. It is a matter of learning about existing objects. The open culture of copying-pasting, hacking, sampling & mixing is rife in this digital age, these techniques enabling the designer to revisit historic projects, to complete them, alter them and adapt them to suit his/her own needs. 
  • The Chinese are considered to be great copiers, yet they have themselves been extensively copied by Europeans since the 16th century. The effects of the reciprocal attraction between the East and the West can still be felt and result in cross-fertilisation. 
  • In the field of design, the process is slow and progressive rather than in leaps and bounds. The individual creative contribution is based on collective knowledge, innovation consisting in updating, reinterpreting and redesigning. 
  • The world of design is a world of coincidence: inventions satisfy ongoing trends and creators can devise similar solutions based in new societal developments, on the availability of new materials and on advances in production techniques. They all have the same specifications in terms of ergonomics, functionality, material economics, energetic performance, etc. which can sometimes lead to converging choices: copying is inevitable. 
  • Copying can occasionally consist in paying tribute to a renowned designer, or in imitating his/her creations.

(Picture above: Loeschner, Bert, The Dudes, Limited edition, 2011. Polypropylene © CID Grand Hornu)