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Designer or Artist. What’s the difference and who cares?

By Patrick Sesko

Designer or artist. What's the difference and who cares?

The dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.” It then defines Design as “A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.”

Kind of vague, huh? Well to put it simply, art isn’t always design and some design can be art. Still vague? Well it inherently is. There is definitely some gray area between the two.

I look at it this way: Art is something you typically create for yourself—whether it’s a painting, drawing or sculpture, etc—and if other people like it, great! Art is generally created through self-expression and doesn’t have to adhere to any rules.

If you create a painting for instance, and you love it and it expresses your emotion, then that in my eyes is a successful piece. Maybe not commercially but you love it and that’s what matters. Some art can make a social statement that is supposed to evoke an emotion, and possibly to promote action. In that case I see it more as design. In a situation like this, we are talking semantics, thus the gray area I mentioned above.

Design is different in that the main objective is to inform, and inspire action. It is usually used as a tool for increasing business, or participation, or awareness of a cause, to name a few. Again, some design CAN be art. It can be beautifully crafted with typography and placement of copy and design elements, but the purpose of Graphic design is to get people to act in a desirable way.

For instance, if you had an event you wanted people to attend, you might have a poster or brochure designed telling people about it. Should it be aesthetically pleasing? You bet. But the design direction is typically driven by who you want to benefit from it. Much like an interior designer will lay out a space to promote flow and movement throughout a space for particular people, a graphic designer will design a piece to promote flow, interest and action, as well as inform a particular demographic.

The largest difference in my opinion between art and design is that results of design can be measured and art cannot. You can tell how many more people purchased your product for instance, before vs. after your company logo redesign or brochure design. With design, there are usually metrics involved and it is more mathematical and strategic than art is.

Do you think there is a difference between art and design? Do you disagree with me? Let me know in the comments.

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