Spending most of my time among professional designers, I’ve learned that comparing design and art is an assured way to bring up heated arguments and bold statements like:
“Art is meant to give rise to emotions and thought, but it doesn’t solve problems.”
“Design is not an art. Design needs to function.”
The subject that separates physical art and graphic design are extremely complicated to me, and it is something that has been debated for a very long time. Both artists and designers create visuals having a shared knowledge base, but their purpose of doing so is completely different.
Some designers consider themselves artists, but only a few physical artists consider themselves designers. In this post, I’ll try to highlight and compare some defining characteristics of each craft. So, let’s think this post as the beginning of a conversation and be open-minded about it.
According to me, the clear difference between art and design lies in the first spark of creativity. They both come from separate backgrounds. Art is a demonstration of an entirely new idea, it’s the practice of breathing life into something personal to create an emotional connection between the artist and his audience.
Whereas, design originates from the desire to convey a pre-existing message in the form of a logo, call to action or a strapline.
Art Inspires, Design Motivates
Looking at graphic design or a piece of artwork, what I see is – the intent. An artist usually instills a feeling through his art and allows viewers to relate to it and get inspired by it. Today, the most renowned artwork is considered to be the one that establishes a strong emotional bond between an artist and a viewer.
On the other hand, a designer motivates his audience through an idea, image, a message or action. A designer doesn’t invent things, he tries to communicate something that already exists by keeping its purpose in mind. This purpose motivates people to take action like purchase an item, learn specific information, use a service or visit a location. The most successful designs that I’ve come across delivers a strong message and at the same time drives people to conduct a task.
Art is Interpreted, Design is Understood
So far we’ve learned that both physical art and graphic design are perceived differently by their audience. An artist’s emotion or a viewpoint doesn’t necessarily have a single meaning. An artwork builds a connection with viewers in various ways as it is interpreted differently. We can take an example of Da Vinci’s famous artwork Mona Lisa, over the years there have been various opinions formed about it — some see a grimace in the painting, some see a smile and some see neither. None of the opinions are wrong, it’s just that people have interpreted it in different ways.
A designer, on the other hand, wants his message to be clearly understood by the audience. If graphic design is interpreted in some other way to what the designer actually intended, then it has failed to deliver the message.
Art is a Talent, Design is a Skill
An artist is said to have a natural ability. From a very young age, an artist learns to sculpt, draw, paint and then develop these abilities. There is no doubt that a good artist has the skill, but an artistic skill without talent is just worthless.
On the contrary, a graphic designer builds his skills to create a design. To be a great designer, you don’t have to be an artist. The only thing you need to do is achieve the objective of a design. Some famous designers like Peter Saville and Saul Bass focus on their own personal styles. But for many designers, versatility matters the most.
The difference between physical and digital art can be clear or sometimes unclear, it entirely depends on the way you look at it. But at their most fundamental level, both forms of art have value and can be as forward thinking as an artist’s expanded imagination. In the end, what matters is the person behind the brush or a mouse who determines whether the art is significant or not.