michael - please don't ever feel bad for imitating (emulating?) somebody else's work.. it's how we all learn, it's how we all think.
i only feel a little amusement when i see this design, and a little pride in the idea that my work was good enough to experiment with.
i draw the line, however, when somebody tries to imitate my work to the point of it becomeing their style to the point of copycatting. then (and this is where i get pissed), they go after my feeble client base and attempt to take away my work (and this is where i get bitter) and usually do because so few clients have any loyalty to their designers.
so, what's going on with this poste is fine. in fact i'm a little envious of the colors scheme. it's gorgeous. i wish i had enough budget on that gang of four poster to use color. i had a budget of $50 (including printing and everything) so, it was a 'quick print' black and white poster. you guys are so lucky you all have color to start out with. i sure didn't. dang!
ok, i'll take this step further, and then i'm outta here.
my work - particularly my early work - relies heavily upon very classical design strategies. i see my DESIGN as being a very well-built clothes rack, and then whatever IMAGE or TYPE TREATMENT i choose i can hang on that rack like a fresh spring frilly. basically, the design is what carries my work, and my image and type convey the ideas i'm trying to get across (like i said, particularly my earlier work when i was still learning).
that gang of four poster is so good simply because the frame and border, etc. is so powewrful that i could have put ANYTHING in it and it would work great. i fact, i invite anybody out there to try it. put any damned thing you want into that frame and it'll work really well.
so, there in a nutshell is the difference between a good DESIGN and a godd ILLUSTRATION. i would say that this poster is a 'bad' learning exercise for the designer - a copped design, a simple piece of clip, some amatuerish typography and a great color scheme - that in years to come he/she will likely move way beyond.
so, is it a rip off? in a way, it is. it's taking a strong design solution developed by somebody else and using it as a crutch. it's really no different than that fella who did those great poster usung old postage stamp borders (called a 'cartouche') and putting in new images and words. they worked really well, but after awhile his illustration (and his design) sense got better than his gimmick, and he didn't need that border 'crutch' anymore to carriy his ideas. in his case the cartouche began to hurt is work. the same is beginning to happen here with this poster.
so i guess the next logical question is: is that a rip off?
george harrison was once sued because the somg 'my sweet lord' was a direct copy of 'he's so fine'. he got sued and it ended up that the court said that he did indeed rip it off, but it was UNCONSCIOUS ripping off - he didn't realize he did it.
here's another question for consideration: when does the term 'intellectual property' enter the picture. many people have sued (and won - and LOST - and then won again) over things as tiny as this. where is it across the line? i know where i draw the line, but where do YOU draw the line?