Pirating CSS

Album Cover: Kid A

"We got heads on sticks. You got ventriloquists."
Radiohead / Kid A

Posted on March 22, 2004 11:39 PM in Web Design
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

Dave Shea of Mezzoblue fame blogged recently about The Price of Fame. He points out not only how easy it is for the "bad guys" to steal your CSS work, but also why it's wrong to revoke your work to try and keep it from happening.

I definitely agree with what Dave has to say, and think that he is dead on concerning the "15 or 90 or 700" who don't steal yours CSS and often times learn from it or get inspired to do their own creative CSS design. While pointing out that all sites eventually get stolen (something that is obviously a generalization, but that holds true more often than you might think), he references Pirated Sites, a website that, to quote the site, is for "pointing and laughing" at pirated designs.

There have been many times in the past when I have spotted a design I really liked that I either filed away mentally or bookmarked so that I could reevaluate it the next time I started a design. In fact, my old portfolio of web design work was loosely based off of the color scheme at, ironically enough, Mezzoblue. However, typically when I see a site I like or a color scheme that catches my eye, I'll think of ways to combine those modular elements with elements from several other designs, so that I can use a collection of "good things" to make a "good design."

The way I see it, designing in CSS can either be like writing a cover song or creating an entirely new song from scratch. In the first case, your number one goal should always be to do it better than the original. No one wants to hear a cover song that doesn't at least live up to the strengths of the original (this is why I typically dislike Beatles covers so much). On the other hand, when you are designing from scratch, it's much like trying to create a song from scratch...whether you realize it or not you are letting the influences that other songs have had on you determine whether the new one is "good," for lack of a better word.

Good design is good design because it inspires people and, in the case of fellow developers, gives them ideas about how to define good design. If I design a site that uses a font you haven't seen before, that looks like it would work better in places where really small type is necessary than any other font you may have seen before, then I might just have played a part in how you define good design in small typeface situations. You'll be hard-pressed not to let that affect you the next time you need to design in a small typeface setting.

In addition, if I do something that you like, and you think you can do better, by all means build on top of what I've done and make it better. I assure you that I am trying to think of ways to make good design better all of the time – it's the very nature of a web designer who doesn't want to get stuck in a design time capsule. We have to constantly evolve and learn to survive because, if we don't, there will always be someone else out there who will out-design us without ever looking back.

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