They Say Imitation Is The Highest Form of Flattery…

… But plagiarism is not. I’m not sure if I am allowed to address this issue here but enough time has passed that I think I can briefly talk about it so long as I don’t mention the university or any names. I’ll just address the incident.

Several weeks ago, university staff members approached me to ask me if I recognised the presentation panels they were carrying. This was approximately 5 mins before I was due to present my Tech model. I said yes, that they were my Museum of Music panels from 12 months previous, the end of First Year. I was then handed a page and a half of typed design spiel. It was my exact words about my project. They then showed me a model of my project.

By this stage I was feeling light-headed and I’d started shaking. My heart was beating out of my chest. Thinking back, that was ridiculous because I hadn’t done anything wrong but the situation was distressing because I realised that someone had printed off my presentation panels from this blog.

They’d printed off my words, my panels and used photos of my model to construct their own. They took my work, with my ideas, concepts, images… And used them as their own. They didn’t reference them, they just printed it all off and handed my work in as if they themselves had conceived the ideas and rigorously worked through the design process.

Weeks later, I still can’t wrap my head around this. My 12 years as a designer won’t let me understand it. I understand being influenced by, referencing or deriving concepts from other architectural works or architects. That happens everyday. But as one of my funnier tutors commented… “I’d rip off Frank Gehry’s work if I thought I could get away with it”.

But this is just outright wrong.

I’ve also been led to understand that it was more than one student. And more than one project. In what universe is it acceptable or would someone be desperate enough to print off and submit someone’s work as their own? Especially to stand there and read out someone else’s words in a crit situation???? Knowing it wasn’t their work???

My biggest concern in all of this is what happens when people who do this slip through the cracks? What happens when they get out in the industry? How do they cope? How do they conceive ideas and concepts? How can they show a potential employer a folio that has projects done by someone else?

I’m angry but I’m also mystified. That’s my hard work. My blood, sweat and tears. And I mean all three (!!!!)… Scalpel cuts, long nights and emotional breakdowns… All that goes into every project I do. I get good marks coz I work damn hard. Really damn hard. I don’t get good marks because tutor’s love me. Some do, some don’t. I do well because I question my design decisions over and over and over until I get as many kinks worked out as I can. I go for days without sleep. I work it through like it is a real project. Yes. It’s just university but I find I miss my career while I’m studying. So I take risks, not knowing if they will pay off. I do this because I want to be the best possible designer I can be. That takes time and energy and research.

It takes (I’d guess) about 30 minutes to print off someone else’s work and present it.

My integrity as a designer is important to me and I would/will take on anyone who questions it. And when someone else plagiarises my hard work, they are undermining that integrity.

From now on I will be putting watermarks on all the images on my blog. It may not stop those intent on plagiarising but it may slow the process down. That’s why I haven’t yet uploaded my latest design project… the images are still awaiting their watermarks.

The staff were wonderful in how they dealt with me about this issue. They were reassuring and understanding. They spoke to my Tech tutor to make her aware that I’d had a bit of a shock.

I’m not sure what has happened to the student/s responsible but I hope they can learn from this. I hope they don’t do anything like this again, to anyone.

End rant.

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2 thoughts on “They Say Imitation Is The Highest Form of Flattery…

  1. Yeah that can’t have felt good in the least. Sadly though, it’s a pretty common thing to happen… at least in the tech world where I kinda work. There’s a reason why there is so much talk about anti-piracy in all spheres.

    For what it’s worth I do believe that water finds its level though over time. In other words, if you’re really good which it sounds like you are, you’ll get what you deserve at one point or the other. All the very very best and keep going. And seriously.. try and sleep occasionally πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much for this comment… It made me smile, particularly the last line πŸ™‚ I’ll do my best πŸ˜‰

      I’m surrounded by wonderfully supportive friends, tutors and fellow students… So I’m choosing to believe this is a once-off by a desperate student. You’re absolutely right, water finds its level… πŸ™‚

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