Decorate Like a Pro: Expert Q&A -- Inspiration and Crediting | LilaLoa: Decorate Like a Pro: Expert Q&A -- Inspiration and Crediting

Decorate Like a Pro: Expert Q&A -- Inspiration and Crediting


Is it okay to use someone else's cookie designs? What's the best way to credit your inspiration? Nine cookie decorating experts weigh in on best practices for using inspiration in your own cookie designs.


Expert Q&A: Let's talk about crediting and inspiration

I've been decorating cookies for what seems like a lifetime. I've been blogging about decorating cookies for almost as long. I have learned A LOT of things along the way. I've learned that icing consistency REALLY REALLY matters. That natural light is the best kind of light. That adding salt to royal icing just tastes awful. That using a dehydrator to speed dry icing is AWESOME. That coral and mint...just aren't in my skill set. But most important, I've learned that there is rarely ever just ONE RIGHT WAY to do anything.

Sometimes people ask me a question and I actually feel like I am doing them a disservice by answering...because I want them to see all their options before deciding what will work best for them. So I decided to put together a Super Team of expert decorators to help answer some of the common questions that I get asked all the time. So that YOU can see that there are many methods and opinions for decorating cookies and that ALL OF THEM ARE VALID. What works for one person, may not be a solution for another person. But it might!

Today I asked my Super Team the following question:

New decorators (and many veteran decorators) are often confused about inspiration and crediting. How do you feel about the following questions? 

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? 

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? 



Amber Spiegel -- Sweet Ambs

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? In general, I'd say no. My situation is a little different because I create cookie decorating tutorials so that people can learn how to make my designs. My hope is that they will then use the techniques they've learned from my videos to create their own unique designs rather than copying mine, but I have no problem when someone recreates one of my cookies exactly. That's part of the process of learning how to decorate. I do have a problem, however, when my tutorials are copied. There have been a few instances where someone will watch my video tutorial and then film a tutorial on how to create the same design, which is not okay. I would say that if you're going to copy someone's cookie design, just tag the creator or link to their website. And if you're not sure if it's okay, just ask!

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? If you're posting the photo on social media, tag the account of the person who created the design. If it's on a blog, post a link to the original post where you first saw it. If you're not sure who created the design, I think it's okay to just say you don't know! You could even put a call out to your followers to comment the name of the creator if they know who it is, and then update the credit accordingly.

Visit SweetAmbs to learn more about Amber Spiegel and see her gorgeous tutorials. 


Lisa Snyder -- The Bearfoot Baker

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? Before I copy anyone's design I always ask permission. That way you know you have their okay and then I adapt it to my style or color. Be sure to credit them because you are sharing the cookie love and make each other happy.

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? That's a hard one. Sometimes no matter how hard you look you can't find the person who made the original design. I ask the person where I saw it first. If I see it on FB, I ask the person if they know who originally created the design. Hopefully, they know. If they don't know, I ask my cookie friends if they know who made it. If they don't know I may say, "I don't know and can't find the person who created this design first. Do any of you know who the designer is?" and I always put a link to the person where I saw it. That may not be the right way to do it but I want to give credit to the person who made it. As far as my designs, I want people to make them. It is nice when you give credit but I understand how things can get lost on the internet.

Visit The Bearfoot Baker to learn more about Lisa Snyder and check out her comprehensive tutorials.


Anne Yorks -- Flour Box Bakery 

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? If the design comes from a step-by-step video or tutorial, I think it is ok to copy the design. If a photo of the cookie will be posted on social media, it is polite to credit the original. If a decorator wants to create a design that does not have a tutorial (found a pic on pinterest, etc) I would suggest seeking permission from the original designer before copying a cookie. Often times people are flattered when someone wants to recreate a design, but ask first, there are a few that are very protective of their cookie creations (and rightfully so because they poured a lot of time, creativity and heart into it.)

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? I think the best practice is naming the inspiration and tagging the decorator. If you don’t know, ask in a cookie group. Maybe the best option is use an idea as inspiration, but put your own twist to it (it’s still appropriate to credit the original idea even if you tweaked it)! And, if it is an exact copy and you don’t know the originator, don’t post the photo.

Visit Flour Box Bakery to learn more about Anne Yorks and see all of her great tutorials and fantastic products.


Bridget Edwards -- Bake at 350

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? Yes, with credit and depending on the circumstances. As a blogger, the reason I post cookies it to give inspiration and tutorials. My own rule is, if I'm using someone else's design, I credit that person in my post in a clear fashion and if possible with a link. I've had cookie decorators contact me to ask if they can use a design to make for one of their customers....my answer is always, "OF COURSE!" (And, I'm shocked that they asked!) I think we shouldn't get too crazy about "copying." It is entirely possible for two (or twelve! or a hundred!) people to have very similar ideas. My caveat here is that I think it's ok for cookie decorators to share inspiration and ideas; I do NOT think it's super cool for companies to copy those ideas for commercial purposes.🙂

 2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? This is getting tougher and tougher with platforms like Instagram where we see cookie designs all day every day. Sometimes a cookie idea pops into my head and then as I'm making it, I start second guessing myself...is this original, or did I see this someplace, and am I losing my mind? (Answer to the last part is always: yes.) If I'm featuring a cookie on my blog or Instagram, I always try to the best of my ability to credit and link to the source. If I think I've seen it someplace, but can't recall where, I'll call that out, too, asking for someone to pipe up in the comments if they know. Linking, giving credit, and sharing the love lifts others up and doesn't take away from your work as even if you're using someone else's design; your own style and personality are there, too.


Visit Bake at 350 to learn more about Bridget Edwards, see her fun tutorials and check out her delicious recipes.


Pam Sneed -- Cookie Crazie

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? The only time it’s OK to blatantly copy someone else’s design is if they give permission. This could either be in the form of taking a design from a blog or tutorial written by the artist intending to share exactly how they decorated a cookie. It also could be from obtaining the artist's direct permission to copy. In either case, it would be most proper to give that artist credit when posting such a design.

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? If someone has inspired you to come up with your own version of a distinct design (note: not a carbon copy of their design unless #1 above is true), than giving that artist credit would be very appropriate and appreciated. If you don’t know who made the design in the first place, than credit the one that you saw the idea from by saying “design inspired by…..”.

Visit Cookie Crazie to learn more about Pam Sneed and to see her incredible tutorials using glaze icing. 


Jill Wettstein -- Jill FCS
  
1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? The joy in cookie designing (for me, at least) is seeing a design recreated with a twist ... seeing someone take a pre-existing design and making it their own. While I am absolutely fine with someone "copying," I prefer when things are used as "inspiration," that way we can watch each other grow. I love those ah-ha moments when I see a familiar design done totally different. 

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? Crediting a design is a mindful and kind nod to the person who inspired you. It's good to be kind. 

Visit Jill FCS to learn more about Jill Wettstein and to see her incredibly unique style in action! 


Amy Clough - Clough'D 9 Cookies

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? What an interesting and sensitive topic! I think that if there is a tutorial (video or written), the design or technique may be replicated without permission for personal use or sale of those decorated cookies. A tutorial is implied permission (and encouragement!) to copy. In the instance of using a tutorial, tagging the post creator is a nice gesture, but not essential. If no tutorial exists, try to reach out to the original artist to seek permission, especially if the design is super unique. Respect the reply of the artist. But let’s be realistic- more “ordinary” designs/concepts should fall into the cookie public domain. Oooh- can we make that a thing? Like have a “bank” of cookie designs that are fair game for all?

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? In the instance of using a tutorial, tagging the post creator is a nice gesture, but not essential. If no tutorial exists, try to reach out to the original artist to seek permission, especially if the design is super unique. Respect the reply of the artist. But let’s be realistic- more “ordinary” designs/concepts should fall into the cookie public domain. Oooh- can we make that a thing? Like have a “bank” of cookie designs that are fair game for all?
If you don’t know who the original artist is, look closely for a watermark, ask around to cookie friends, do a google image search to try to find the creator. Or better yet, use the original design as true inspiration and put your own spin on it!   

What’s NOT okay to do WITHOUT permission:
1. Re-writing someone else's blog/tutorial.
2. Making a tutorial from someone else’s design/technique in which a tutorial doesn't exist.
3. Using someone else’s unique tutorial for your own cookie class that people are paying you to take. Obviously, common designs and techniques (like those found in the cookie public domain) are fair game. 

Visit Clough'D 9 Cookies to learn more about Amy and see her very clever tutorials!


Callye Alvarado -- Sweet Sugarbelle

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? It’s really something you have to approach on a person to person basis. Personally, I WANT people to copy my tutorials. I post them so that people have the the information they need to recreate what I make. Ideally, as they learn and grow, they won’t need or want to as much, or they’ll feel compelled to make their own spin on a design (I do this a lot when recreating designs by my favorite artists) but even if they don’t, they are there to be used.

That said, not everyone thinks the same way I do. There are teachers that LOVE to share, but really want their students to take the reigns. There are also people who don’t want you to use their designs at all, and that’s okay too. It’s all about respect, treating people the way you want to be treated, having integrity, and being willing to accept the consequences and apologize if you do step on someone’s toes.

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place? In general, I tag and link everywhere that I can. If I don’t know where something came from, I make a reasonable effort to “source” the information. It’s a little harder than it once was, with our growing community, but I always try. There is a point, however, when writing a full bibliography for a cookie becomes necessary and exhausting, and can take the fun out of decorating. At this point, my conscience is clear, and I move on. If by some chance someone is unhappy, I do my best to apologize.

Visit Sweet Sugarbelle to learn more about Callye and get more cookie decorating tutorials than you even knew existed!!


Georganne Bell -- LilaLoa (That's me!)

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? Everyone makes cookies for different reasons. It's important that you approach this question with respect for others. Is this other person your direct competitor? It's probably best not to copy any of their designs ever. Is this other person me? COPY AWAY. I personally post all of my tutorials because I WANT people to learn from them. Copy them exactly. Sell them to your customers...give them to your Aunt or your mailman. I don't care! It makes me happy that you find my tutorials useful!!


My one request -- please do not copy my tutorials. Tutorials are my product, just like cookies are yours. I share my ideas freely, but I would hope that my tutorials would not be recreated or used in cookie decorating classes.

I personally feel that if someone makes a product (like a cookie decorating tutorial, or cookie cutters or stencils...) NO PERMISSION OR CREDITING IS REQUIRED.

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place?  If you have been inspired by someone, it doesn't take anything away from you to share that you've been inspired. Mention them or tag them. Share the love! BUT... I don't think we should spend all of our time feeding the credit monster. Giving credit for a design is not a requirement. Credit is like respect...it should be freely given when it is present...but it cannot be demanded or forced.

Let's take for example...the idea of doing lingerie cookies on a heart shape. I don't know who made those first. They are pretty well everywhere now though. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out who was the original creator. So unless you saw one recently that was particularly brilliant...it's okay to just post those cookies.

Also... I think it's important to recognize that people post their cookies for different reasons. I share my cookies because I want to tell you about new tutorials. Others share cookies as they would a piece of art in a portfolio. Still others share cookies for their customers. Let's be kind to each other. Share inspiration when it seems appropriate, but don't judge others if they don't. 

Check out my PERMISSION PAGE to see more of my own in-depth answers to crediting questions.



It's YOUR TURN -- What do you think? 

1. Is it okay to copy someone else’s cookie designs? 

2. What is the “best practice” for crediting designs? What if you don’t know who made the design in the first place?

Join the discussion in the comments below or on the LilaLoa Facebook page.