ad: Annual 2022 Launch Event

Jackdaw or magpie? Borrowing versus learning

Published by

When is someone else's good idea just too good to resist?

Bad artists borrow, good artists steal. Or is it the other way around? Or are the best artists the ones who use the right tools or learn to make better ones?

Corvids are great. And great metaphors for how we approach our work.

Where I work (at the time of writing this), the office is part of a farm complex and so has plenty of wildlife. Despite the farming community’s (most, but not all) best efforts to exterminate it.

‍Part of the environment here is that it features both Magpies and Jackdaws (as well as Crows, Rooks, Jays - but enough of all them) and the difference between them is marked. The Magpies are, frankly, a bit of a nuisance. They’ll quite happily wreak havoc, stealing fledglings from other birds nests and generally throwing their weight around (we have them nesting in our garden as well, which is not good for the rest of the bird life here.)

‍The Magpie has a reputation of a raider. A bit of a predator. It’s a cruel characterisation and one that cats should share more often (but that’s another story.)

‍Jackdaws however, seem to be remarkably social animals. Even towards us.

They have reputation (well earned) for indulging us. People and Jackdaws get on. It’s in the eyes apparently:

“These corvids communicate via their eyes, just as human eye contact plays a major role, and a bird confident with its mentor can ‘read’ that person’s eye motions and will follow them…”

‍They live in large congregations, so they learn to rub along.

And they love a shiny thing (much as we do.)

They're methodical, neat, tidy.

They like to live where we live (and at the office, that’s inside the walls of the barn) so they’re good socialisers.

I’d bet they’d make for great design teams.

And great clients.

‍Meeting a Jackdaw was considered a good omen in the East of England. Having a team of Jackdaws would make for good meetings I’d venture.


More Inspiration



Design maturity: How to overcome those growing pains

When design operates in the right conditions, it unlocks measurable growth and drives customer satisfaction. But, often, design and design teams are isolated from the core of the business. When this happens, objectives become siloed and businesses...

Posted by: ELSE London


Can’t you be more specific?

Funny how we always talk about how important it is to have a point of view. Something singular. Specific. Fixed. When in fact all of our thinking life is a duality. Of a restless, constant combination of two or many things. In this shiftlessness...

Posted by: Richard
ad: Annual 2022 Launch Event