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A popular saying in the writing profession is, "Good writers borrow; great writers steal." A freelance graphic artist can surely benefit from this mantra as well. Now, to be clear, this does not condone plagiarism. Rather, it reminds us to study the work of others and incorporate it into your own style. Being an avid reader of other material sparks countless ideas of your own.
Graphic artists should keep a file of designs that have "worked" for them or influenced them in some way – even if it is an example of how not to do a task. A personal library of influential images and art will help a good artist develop his skills.