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Is social media democratising design, or just making it easier to steal ideas?

Is social media good for design? Has it improved the dissemination of information and democratised critical design discourse? Does it help up and coming designers reach a wider audience and launch their careers without selling out to big retailers? It is an endless source of inspiration and thus the breeding ground for more and more creativity?

Or is social media’s contribution to design limited to “mundane observations and superficial drivel” (Gillian Russel LDG 2010) serving only to provide big brands easy access to original ideas from independent designers for them to rip off?

I'm interested in people's views with regard to whether social media has been a good thing, or a bad thing, for design. (3d design, architecture, craft, interior design, etc) Particularly keen to hear from anyone who has used social media to launch a design career and / or anyone who has had their fingers burnt re social media enabling someone to copy their work and pass it off as their own. All other thoughts and opinions also welcome.

  • Mar 3 2011: I'd say that to argue about whether social media are good or bad is not that productive; they are here.

    Do they emable copying? It's more that digitisation enables both copying and social media. In this kind of "here comes everybody" world, lines are blurred between amateurism and professionalism. On one level, that's a great thing. It makes design more participatory; but it also means that professionals who have spent years honing their talent are suddenly competing with dilettantes.

    The real positive of social media is that participatory part. Designers' ideas are no longer kept separate by studio walls. The public, who they design for, is available as a resource to comment on and to test their work, and to suggest their fixes. If what makes design so different from other disciplines is the process of prototyping, boding and tinkering an idea until it's really useful, this kind of relationship that can only be good.
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    Feb 28 2011: Social media, if used properly, can help promote a brand, person etc much further than was once possible. It is now possible to run a highly-successful blog on a subject of your choice and find an audience for your posts. This was never possible before and required money to get started.

    There are equally opportunities for stealing ideas, but more commonly what is happening is that a designer can take a product to market far quicker than a retailer can. They have less obstacles in the way now. Although there are negatives stories of copying, there are also great stories of people being given opportunities through blogs, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Just look at Justin Bieber and Lily Allen.

    People have turned their blogs into businesses and businesses have turned themselves into bloggers. This creates a rich, if sometimes inaccurate, playing field for information. Creative Commons licensing has been adopted by large organisations (Flickr etc) to help crediting and we see more and more great content appearing online.

    To me, it is all good, if perhaps sometimes overwhelming!