Reading Response #3 

to Artful Design • Chapter 3: “Visual Design”




Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

Reading Response: Ends in Themselves


From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to  Artful Design Principle 3.16  which states:

Principle 3.16: Originality is Recombination

In chapter three of the book Artful Design, the focus shifts to visual design. This includes examples of good visual design, methods to achieve it, strategies to build it, and even philosophical reflections on the ideals of what visual design means and how we perceive it. There were many aspects to this chapter I enjoyed but one that specifically stood out to me was principle 3.16 which states “Originality is Recombination”. This is a topic I have been pondering for the last few years specifically, as someone who has started a journey of songwriting and music production, I have had to consider this a lot. 

This first came up for me while I was taking an online music production and songwriting class from Ryan Tedder on Monthly (now called Studio). For reference, Ryan Tedder is a successful music producer in the industry who as worked with and sold songs to many huge names in the industry as well as being the lead singer in the band One Republic. During one of the class videos he talked about his process for coming up with ideas and how in music he has to come up with many ideas as quickly to keep up with the industry speed, and often times he will look at songs he likes or “finds a vibe” with and then will imitate that idea or a part of that idea he likes, while changing it and making it his own in a way that can’t be recognized to its original source. He said something in the class that really stuck with me at that point which was that “Amateurs copy, geniuses steal”. Of course in the context of this book, it has been made clear that we should refer to amateurs fondly and I would now disagree with the putting down of amateurs even in a  joking sense. However, his point of being inspired by an idea and using it can be done tastefully, or cheaply, and that difference is key to how original it can be.

In a more general sense, I have also considered this textbooks principle because music in the industry has many thorns when it comes to originality. For example copyrights can become a minefield to artists trying to produce music, which can lead to them losing money or losing their song. Originality is also a cornerstone to being successful as a modern day artist. There are many people who copy or sound similar to other already existing artists, and it is understandable why. There are so many people on this planet, and so many people interested in music, that even if you come from an uncommon circumstance or have a different point of view than the majority, you will still find people like you. When there are so many people, and so many ideas, and so many perspectives, especially over the passage of time, it seems almost impossible to create something unique and new, so when something new and interesting does emerge it gets more attention or at the very least, is remembered, thus the importance of originality. So you can see with this thinking why this topic has been on my mind so much and why it seems almost depressing to me. But this topic as stated in the chapter is uplifting, because it addresses how we do come from a world full of already existing art, but instead of being worried about creating something brand new, its important to remember that we, like the people before us, take inspiration from the world around us. Not only that but it is also those things we enjoy mixed with who we are and what we value. It is a reflection of us and through us that we can share with other people that becomes originality.