Manufacturing isn’t all that’s being changed by the digital revolution; so is the very concept of design and file ownership.
Following a recent story about 3D design theft, well-known artist Janne Kyttanen reached out with a counterpoint that there’s no such thing as theft here because, effectively, there’s no such thing as ownership.
3D File Ownership
How does someone — especially a long-time designer — make that argument?
Does this take us back to the days of Napster and LimeWire, when music piracy was the hot argument? In a way, yes. But in another very real way, it’s an argument as old as art: once a piece has been created, whose is it?
That’s a big philosophical question, but it’s also a capitalistic one: who profits from it?
The lovely thing about a variety of viewpoints in a space is the conversation that arises; there’s never going to be one right answer to any big question, and you can’t agree with anyone. Leaving my own opinion out of this for now, I thought it best to let Janne share his stance in his own words.
A Conversation With Janne Kyttanen On Design
Sarah Goehrke: How has 3D design / 3D printing fundamentally changed the role of the designer? The handling of design?
Janne Kyttanen: “Let me answer this from the broader view and not just 3D design. The future designer is a not a designer at all. He is merely a guide or the one creating an algorithm for design. Whether you want to design a chair or a company logo, all can be coded based on various parameters and the clever ones will be able to link them to the client’s needs, location, business, budget, trends etc. We are slowly starting to see results of this in 3D printing through topology optimization for example. Same applies to any visual design for example. We are seeing the first versions of AI, which will know what the consumers will want and will design it for them. The profession of a type of designer who could spot trends and act upon it, is over. Trends can be easily tracked by AI too.”
SG: Where you do you see the line between IP / protected design and free-for-all design? How far do you think design availability can/should go?
JK: “I used to believe 3D content is king. 10 years ago my mind had already shifted on this and today 3D content is free. Whether it’s the texture patterns for your website or the 3D file of your toy car. If it’s digital, the perception is, it should be free or $1. Whether you spend 1 minute or a year carving out that incredible 3D sculpture, the perception of digital content is ‘free’. The designers of today can get as romantic as they like with their creations, but when they realize this fact, new business models will start to erect in people’s minds. In a similar fashion, I don’t care whether a michelin star chef was plucking the carrots for my salad by himself from the ground and flying them over to me on a private jet, my perception is $10 for a salad. ‘The truth is in the eyes of your prospect and not your own.’
Some of the best business models of today are based on the ‘free’ business model (google, facebook etc.) When the designers and artists of today realize this, it will also change their mindset on how much time they should put in their creations.”
SG: How do cultural norms and access to the internet change perceptions of design “theft” v “usage”?
JK: “The difference between the Asians and the western world is very different. The Chinese people don’t even understand what design ‘theft’ is. If it’s out there, everything is free game. My perception of this is, if it’s easy to copy, your work probably should be copied. If your work was ‘copied’…well you know the answer. The artists who are afraid of their work being ‘stolen’, should seek out for other careers. Every day you should come up with better work than you did yesterday and render your old work obsolete. Move on. Don’t get romantic with the past.
It’s as simple as that. I am not referring to industries such a medical science here for example, whilst a company may spend a 1bln on research just to come up with a simple formula, which anybody can replicate. This is different. I am mainly talking about 3D designs here.”
SG: What do you as a designer think when you see your designs used by people/companies who did not reach out / pay / otherwise obtain your work by permission? How has your thinking here evolved over the last 25 years of design work?
JK: “If somebody copied my work, my first reaction is, good for you. Let’s see if you come up with something, which I can steal. If you can’t, I will always be one step ahead. The old saying, which was coined by Pablo Picasso: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’ means exactly this. My mind has never really changed in this. If somebody copies my work and has an enormous sales engine behind him/her self, I would simply collaborate and propose my next best work for them to commercialize for me. And in fact I have done exactly this and everybody benefited.
You see, everybody has an expertise and an added value in the life and commercialization of an executable idea. If some student ‘copies’ my work and puts it on his Behance portfolio, I will always know he will be looking for the next gems on my website, which is just flattering. It is not any different to, say Disney and Etsy for example. ETSY is blanketed by copyright infringing products from Mickey Mouse pillows to Star Wars hand knitted hats. What does Disney do? Absolutely nothing. The reason why they don’t do anything, is because none of these people make money. ETSY does. If the artists made real money on the work, Disney would be the first one to knock on their door.
In short, if nobody makes money, don’t bother. And with money I don’t mean somebody sold 10 of your files for $5 in a year.”
SG: When you say “content is free” how do you see that concept impacting people who want to be artists / product designers / otherwise paid design professionals?
JK: “Being a creative professional is an ever changing process. We are far from the world where people used to create static products and reap off royalty benefits until they died. ‘Content is free’ is nothing different to that free game you just downloaded to your kids and you had to pay a premium to get to the next level. Let’s imagine I was hired by a company to design a logo. I would simply create the logo for free, but lock them into a $99 month subscription fee instead for getting design tips and tricks from me instead. Its just an example, but when you realize that websites are popping up, which are controlled by AI and they pop out logos for you based on an algorithm, design just became free. If you don’t learn the rules to the game, you will o
nly grow frustrated that people don’t appreciate your Adobe Illustrator skills.”
SG: How can design use turn into new opportunities for collaboration? Are there downsides here?
JK: “I don’t really see disadvantages in collaborations. The more people join a party, more fun everybody will have together.”
SG: In your ideal world, how do you think artists / designers should handle their 3D files?
JK: “Create your 3D files into an ever changing app. Make a software out of it. Become that philanthropist free file sharer, who will instead then be paid big bucks for giving speeches or your face got printed on T-shirts. Turn your 3D models into cartoon characters instead and license them to Disney. Share your files for free, but make money on advertisements on your website instead due to your high traffic.
The moral of the story is to look at the bigger picture. By the time you learn to look past the 3D files, you will get creative in other aspects of the business too.”
SG: What else should we know?
JK: “Like in most industries, the winners come from the unexpected sources. The 3D field is no different. I want the creative minds of this industry to use their power of true creativity also in the business sense, adapt, connect and create something new. Like in many other industries before us, like the music industry for example. The best singer and guitarist on the planet is not the one in charge anymore, but perhaps the one who was most charismatic on American’s got talent and created the highest social media following…and started selling his T-shirts.”
3D File Ownership?
So there we have it: two successful artists, two vastly different viewpoints.
Who do you agree with? Who owns a 3D file?
Via Janne Kyttanen