Ask DN: Why rip off medium's design? It's not ok.

almost 4 years ago from , Product Design Lead at Zendesk

I've lost count of the 'themes' I've seen posted here and elsewhere that are nothing more than a medium rip off. Medium is beautiful way to read, but it's not the only way.

I've never seen a site's style copied so much, and judging by some peoples congratulatory comments some think this is acceptable?

They're shameful ripoffs, nothing more. Baffled!

41 comments

  • Martin BavioMartin Bavio, almost 4 years ago

    Well, now at least they are not trying to copy Svbtle anymore.

    14 points
  • Marco SousaMarco Sousa, almost 4 years ago

    The real world is full of brands copying each others adverts, store designs, colours, names, product designs, etc etc. That's why patents and copyrights exist. This just helps understand who are the innovators and who are the ones lagging behind. I couldn't be less worried about it.

    12 points
    • Jonny BeltonJonny Belton, almost 4 years ago (edited almost 4 years ago )

      Have you patented a design before? Just because others do it doesn't make it right.

      2 points
      • Marco SousaMarco Sousa, almost 4 years ago

        Never said it was right. But it's been happening for centuries and just because it's digital it doesn't make it different. Just because there are millions of copied nike designs worldwide it didn't kill nike, did it?

        1 point
  • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, almost 4 years ago (edited almost 4 years ago )

    I think it's okay to adopt the general layout of Medium, as long as the designer insures that there are more than several factors that make a theme unique. The sidebar design and header image style is awesome. Is no designer ever supposed to use that style now that Medium has used it? If so, you should quit design right now, because chances are every part of any design you come up with has been conceived of and implemented similarly, if not exactly, someone else's design.

    Also: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." -Pablo Picasso

    Edit: I see that last part came off as extremely rude. I didn't mean it that way, I feel I was just stating a fact in the most truthful (albeit blunt) fashion as possible.

    4 points
    • Jonny BeltonJonny Belton, almost 4 years ago

      To elaborate on the quote you've cited - steal = make it your own, right?

      It's the copycats I'm referring to in the OP. Inspiration is part of us, medium were not the first to use large header images and body copy, but they've made a particular style of this their own.

      0 points
      • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, almost 4 years ago (edited almost 4 years ago )

        Not 100% sure what you mean by the first sentence; would you care to elaborate a bit more? I kind of get it, but I'm not sure that stealing equals making it your own in terms of that quote; I've always interpreted it as great artists take things they like of other designs, so maybe that means they only take parts of other designs and incorporate them into their own designs to make a unique one? I don't know.

        Initially I felt attacked by this post (this has nothing to do with you--you didn't do anything wrong, it was just my feeling) because just yesterday I commented on a link here on DN about a new theme for the Ghost blogging platform that takes a lot of inspiration from Medium, but definitely differentiates itself. I thought maybe you had seen that link and it was what had caused you to write this post, so I felt like I had to defend these Medium themes. Sorry for going nuts with it. Also, no worries if that actually was the link that made you write this post.

        Thanks for explaining that you meant copying, and not inspiration. I do think it is hard to draw the line between the two, but I also think that there is, of course, an absolute example of copying: literally copying the design with very minimal changes (practically unnoticeable) and then passing it off as your own. I'm not so sure that there is an absolute example of taking inspiration from a design, though maybe just taking one small part of it, like the author sidebar, and putting it into your otherwise unique design might constitute that.

        2 points
  • Raven KellerRaven Keller, almost 4 years ago

    Generally I'd ignore this conversation thread bc it is full of non-analytical complaints, but... I have something positive to add here.

    Recently, I was looking at home-stay travel accommodation alternatives to Airbnb. I was surprised to find that a handful of competing sites had copied Airbnb's landing page design pretty closely.

    At first I thought that was a little funny, but then I recognized that by copying Airbnb's design, these sites were more usable. Airbnb's design is improving the quality of design in its space - and that's fantastic.

    4 points
    • Duncan ReganDuncan Regan, almost 4 years ago

      I think your anecdotal evidence is good and clear headed, and the analogy stands—if more sites, which would otherwise be difficult to read and frustrating to use, aped medium's style, we'd be better off for it (assuming they offered quality content).

      Other mediums have tended to converge on a general structure for for presenting content, and there's nothing wrong with a baseline.

      0 points
    • Tom WoodTom Wood, almost 4 years ago

      This is the most level headed comment on this thread. Brilliant analogy and the point you make is wonderfully positive. People will always rip off others, in any walk of life - but if the bottom line is a better and more functional world then that's a good thing. Afterall, immitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

      0 points
  • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, almost 4 years ago

    I think taking pieces from a design are fine—I like lift quotes on Medium and decided to implement them on Signal Tower.

    What I have issue with is when someone opens the source and line-for-line copies the code. There is a difference between inspiration and copying.

    3 points
    • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, almost 4 years ago

      Thanks for saying this. Line-for-line is the real problem, not taking inspiration. Even if it looks mostly the same, with at least a few differences, if it's 100% handcoded by the "copying" designer (like, without looking at how the original did it at all), I would say it's okay.

      2 points
      • Dustin KemperDustin Kemper, almost 4 years ago

        Agreed. If someone is using Medium's design as a way to better understand effective layout or to teach one's self to code, then I feel it is acceptable to copy. Copying design is a good way to learn.

        But by no means should they take full credit or make a profit by selling it as a template for other blogging tools.

        1 point
  • Joe TurnerJoe Turner, almost 4 years ago

    Agreed. If you like the style and want to use something similar then that's fine, but duplicating the styles exactly and selling a WP Theme/Tumblr Theme for money is a little shameless.

    Where's the originality?

    3 points
  • Adam Brace, almost 4 years ago

    Was waiting for someone to say this, shameless.

    1 point
  • Benjamin RogersBenjamin Rogers, almost 4 years ago

    The overwhelming majority of creative progress is based on the foundation of something else that inspired you on some level... whether it simply was a rough idea that you could take to the next level... or a core structure that clearly is a step forward and can become a new base to expand on. The inspiration could even be from something unrelated to the medium you work in.

    The key is to not simply copy something (although reverse-engineering is a fantastic way to learn), but to improve upon it to make something new.

    I've included a pretty relevant TED talk below (~10 min)... it's worth a gander if you've never seen it before.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/kirby_ferguson_embrace_the_remix.html

    1 point
  • ポール ウェッブポール ウェッブ, almost 4 years ago

    Are you guys opposed to the creation on plugins inspired by Medium, like Grande? https://github.com/mduvall/grande.js

    1 point
    • Cole TownsendCole Townsend, almost 4 years ago

      I think this is slightly different. This is taking something innovating they have made and applying it in a different scenario. Ex: You have a different design, but really want a nice editing experience powered by JS.

      2 points
  • Ryan DevenishRyan Devenish, almost 4 years ago

    Steal like an artist http://austinkleon.com/steal/

    0 points
    • Devin HalladayDevin Halladay, almost 4 years ago

      I think you completely missed the point of this book.

      The point is not to steal someone else's hard work. Quite the contrary, actually. The point is to be more creative by surrounding yourself with outside influences and using those influences as inspiration to create your own work.

      1 point
      • Ryan DevenishRyan Devenish, almost 4 years ago

        I think you completely missed that I didn't state an opinion anywhere.

        The point of posting that link was for people to consider reading the book, not put words in my mouth.

        3 points
  • Daniel HaimDaniel Haim, almost 4 years ago

    Agreed.

    0 points
  • Jordan PriceJordan Price, almost 4 years ago

    Do you have any links/ examples? I've yet to see any blatant rip offs.

    0 points
  • Moiz K. MalikMoiz K. Malik, almost 4 years ago (edited almost 4 years ago )

    I don't understand it. If you like Medium's design, then use their product. It works just fine.

    I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, I have always viewed my work as an opportunity to try out my ideas. Of course my ideas are influenced by what already exists in the world, but... doesn't copying a design remove all the fun?

    0 points