What would Eva think of this Target copycat of her Classic Century sauce boat? And why do I care, when I'm not up in arms about other copycats? The controversy over design "idea theft" is not new, but I've been thinking about where the line is for me. I've decided it's when I think the copycat is disrespecting the integrity of the original.
For the most part, I like to abstain from this specific design discussion. But I'm interested in where the line is for you. And I'm not going to get into intellectual property law, I'm talking gut integrity.
For me, it's one thing to rip-off the anglepoise lamp and make a much cheaper version. Although designers may not agree, I simply cannot afford items over hundreds of dollars. And anyone who knows about design anyway will know when someone has a knockoff Eames in his or her living room versus the real deal.
Note the above as an okay example for me: Édouard-Wilfred Buquet's lamp, and Restoration Hardware's faithful reproduction. Restoration Hardward cites Buquet as a source, and other than this reproduction, Buquet's design isn't available anywhere else, as far as I know. (Besides auctions).
It's another thing to take Eva Zeisel's feminine-modern sauce boat, squish it, and call it a vase. To me — and this is an extreme example — it's like Mona Lisa without her face. Mona Lisa without her face isn't worth it. A Classic Century copycat without it's gracefulness isn't the same. And to add to that, this Target reproduction costs more than the original: Crate & Barrel sells the sauce boat for $47.95, Target sells the wide Kira vase for $49.99.
I believe in the free-market mobility of ideas in art, which allows art to work its way both up and down the economic ladder: "Design for All!" as Target advertises. At the same time, I bemoan the demise of the high-brow in an increasingly mass-marketed society. And this is the perfect example. This is a far cry from Dwell Studio, which designs a high-end line of bedding and a separate low-end bedding line for Target. This is taking a piece of art and corrupting it.
Obviously, everything is going to be inspired by something else, but what upsets me here, is that 1) Target isn't trying to make a Zeisel piece more available or affordable for the masses, and 2) there's a complete lack of even trying to do something different. Either outright rip it off for cheaper, or use it as inspiration for doing something different — and don't tell me that this is different because it's not different enough. It's lazy.
I appreciate that our culture allows for the dispersion of art, but I'm sad that it sometimes comes at the cost of what we hold to be most beautiful. Target took something modern and beautifully symmetrical and squished it. Sometimes, I guess, all you need to do to make something smart and postmodern is to squish the modern.
Where is the line for you? When do your design morals kick in and you abstain, and when you feel a free conscience in buying reproductions or copycats?