Kirby also appeared as a TED speaker on the subject with his talk ‘Embrace the Remix‘.
Kirby talked about his analysis of creative work, which falls into three categories of either copying, transforming or recombining existing elements. Many legends of music like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin more or less admit to using existing songs and melodies in their work. It’s how they learned to find their own style. Stand up comedian Richard Pryor taxed the time it took him to find his own voice to about 30 years. Similarly scientific break throughs aren’t leaps of imagination but often a transformation or recombination of previous knowledge and tools. Kirby took Henry Ford as the example of combining conveyor belt and other elements of mass production and deploying it for the automobile (which he didn’t invent).
What resonated with me was that seemingly original ideas often reveal their influences, and that it is ok to work like that. If we can admit that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, we can relax and keep inventing by copying parts, transforming and recombining them. But preferably avoid the pure copying. I think too often discussions in advertising are about the copying bit (in the sense of plagiarism) and used as a sledgehammer to cristicise and put down any transformative and re-combinatory (if that’s a word) aspect of the idea.
Kirby’s talk was organised by the resourceful guys from Portable as part of their Portable Talk series. I have already signed up for their next event with one of the makers behind ‘LookBook.nu’, Yuri Lee.
In case you haven’t noticed this site yet, it must be one of the most influential in terms of online fashion and (what they call) ‘Collective Fashion Consciousness’. Think of it as a ‘Sartorialist’ times 1,000. Book your front row seat here.