Copy a Style

Copying a style is learning. Originality is a recent invention. Real maturity in any craft is being able to have original ideas and also an education in the tradition. It can be argued if there is no such thing as an original idea. Any idea, however original, would be inspired by an idea before that, so we would need to give credit to everyone. As for Graphic Design, in many cultures, is still a service industry or craft, not an original artistic idea.
Can you copy from Paula Scher? Is an article whether this qualifies as plagiarism or a homage. When my office designed the club-culture magazine “Flyer,” we copied brand images on every cover. I guess it was a punk or rave thing.

from the Punk Rock exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC

Steven Heller explains that copying a style without the original tools or circumstances is wrong. I can agree, it’s neo-classic kitsch.
Here is the story of one of my neo-classic kitsch pieces:
I was asked to design for the real estate developer and owner SAGE in an industry publication called “Rebny.” It’s kind of a vanity piece for the real estate owners to show their buildings, so most of the ads are pretty lame and interchangeable. SAGE claims to stand out from that crowd. Their buildings were mostly built in the ’60s and ’70s, and they pride themselves on the sophisticated sculpture art around their plazas and lobbies. Much of it is from pop art and the ’60s. I am a big fan of an Olivetti typewriter advertisement (designed by Walter Ballmer – 1964 He believed that their new letters are so beautiful they should be as large as possible). I started with a shameless copy, which looked super pretty but was a little too hard to read, the second round was more comfortable to read, but the boss requested to see buildings. The next round became dull and heavy until I got the pictures and colors more pop and bright again.

Let’s start from some beginning because the design was around before in China and Iraq, but mostly I grew up with the western history, which starts with Roamsn and then monks to record stories into books and illustrate them. They were unique hand-written books, the texts were copied, so only very few copies were treasured, and sometimes even caused wars.

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells, one of the great treasures of medieval Europe, is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing four Gospels of New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks sometime around 800 AD. Figures of humans, animals, and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colors, enliven the manuscript’s pages. The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colors used had been made from a wide range of substances, often imported from distant lands.


Technically, China holds most of the records for printing discoveries, including non-papyrus paper making, woodblock printing, and movable type—all of which occurred earlier than you might have guessed.
As far back as 200 CE, China used wood reliefs to print and stamp designs on silk clothes, and later paper. In 1040, Bi Sheng invented the world’s first movable type printing press out of porcelain, more than 400 years before Gutenberg brought a similar technology to Europe.
1400, inventor of a printing method called “movable type” that made books affordable and fast to produce and thereby spread knowledge that played a crucial role in taking Europe into the Renaissance. It changed society. It threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the educated elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class.
The Gutenberg Bible was the first mass-produced book in Europe, it’s also due to Martin Luther who translated the Bible and was luckily a rather good writer.
Some of the first logos would be the code-of-arms of the kings around Europe.


Named after Queen Victoria is an aesthetic response to industrialization. The rise of the self-indulged nouveau-riche class brought new comforts and products, which started a competition. It has a decidedly cluttered look of status symbols. They confused ornamentation with design.

Art Nouveau & Deco

It combined modernist styles with exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress. Art Deco was a pastiche of many different styles, sometimes contradictory, united by a desire to be modern. Later the exotic and expensive materials became subdued in the great Depression followed by a streamline Modern. It was one of the first truly international styles, but it ended abruptly with the onset of World War II.




De style


Neojaponism blog
Gurafiku tumbler site
my little writing



A vanguard of Graphic Design, the Emigre alternative culture magazine was founded in 1983 and published quarterly. The Fuse type foundery had some of the earliest digital typefaces. The design challenged the canonical rules of modernist design.

Cuban Posters

Susan Sontag’s intro to Rampart mag abotu Cuban Posters
Print mag (Steven Heller)


Rave/Designers Republic

The wildest design using the new desktop publishing tools came from amateurs promoting parties. Flyers were printed to advertise the clubs and raves. the aesthetic of the days was influenced by psychedelic designs, Japanimation, video games and techno-machinery futuristic-looking typefaces. Frequent motifs were parodies of popular product logos

Flat Design

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