When does design stop being design and start being plagarism? - Copying? It's a debate as old as design itself. Here's another angle: What is fashion and style? Can fashion exist or zeitgeist be established without reference and influence from somewhere.
Design, doesn't exist in a vaccuum. Every piece of work influences and guides (or repels!)
We were pondering this as we researched for a new project. In order to communicate effectively to either make the job 'fit in' or indeed 'stand out' we have to know the context.
This thought provoking and often quoted poem by John Donne is to mankind what we as designers are to design itself:
No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.