When your unique idea has already been done

Say you’ve got an idea that seems fresh, unique, clever and original… you might find that it’s already been done.

We’ve seen movies with similar themes (so-called “twin films”) come out nearly at the same time like when two movies about Truman Capote (Capote and Infamous) came out within months of each other.

In the world of technology, the phenomenon of “simultaneous inventorship” can be particularly surprising. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed separate telephone patents on the very same day, with the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Bell despite his prototype not functioning at the time.

In the creative industry, we obviously value ideas that are innovative, fresh, and unique. It can be really hard for us to see a design that’s similar to ours by out-and-out copying or even by chance. After all, there are 7 billion people in this world and the odds of two people having the same idea are very likely, and there’s a certain synchronicity of ideas because we consume a lot of similar media and share influences.

There have also been a few times where we’ve created a design or marketing concept we like, only to find out later that it’s similar to something else in the market.

This is a natural part of the design process, and it can be disappointing to find out that something we thought was unique has been done before.

As designers, it’s important for us not to get too caught up in researching other designs because it could limit what our creativity. Once we’ve come up with a design, we’ll do research to make sure it hasn’t been done before. Sometimes this will mean abandoning the concept and trying something new. Again, this can be disappointing, but that’s part of the design process.

Coming up with a similar concept is natural because we may have similar design influences and ideas to whoever came up with the design first. Coming up with the same design as someone else isn’t an indication that you’re not brilliant and original, but it does require going back to the drawing board and coming up with something that people haven’t seen before.

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