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  • Nov 22, 2010


art vs DESIGN

I am a designer, not an artist.

Artist or designer? If you ask me, I will tell you I am definitely not an artist, I’m a designer.  With my grandfather and father having a natural gift for painting and drawing, I think that the “artist” gene skipped a generation since my simplistic, done-in-ten-seconds doodles of food with happy faces can’t even compare to their beautiful and skillful impressionistic oil paintings of landscapes and still lifes.
Is being an artist measured by the ability to draw and paint? Can design be art? Without thinking too much about it, I would answer, “Yes, of course!” So, why do I group myself with designers instead of artists even though I feel that designs can be art?  Is there a difference between creating art or design and being an artist or designer?  The lines drawn between art and design can be drawn sometimes with an extra-thick black Sharpie marker or with invisible ink depending on how you define them.


It is undeniable that art and design both share the same fundamental principles of aesthetics and use shapes, colors and space to create something. However, art and design use this similar foundation for different purposes and this is where I would draw lines with a big fat Sharpie.

Art created by an artist is, or I think should be, something created freely and have no rules unless self-imposed. It is created with no particular purpose in mind and is a reflection of the artist’s own emotions, personal story and thoughts. It’s meaning and value is interpreted by its viewer and can be different for everyone.  There can be no right or wrong because art is whatever the artist wanted it to be.

On the other side of the line, design created by a designer has an intended purpose and function.  Design is a process of solving a problem and coming up with solutions.  The designer’s message and meaning reflect the ideals of a company, brand or group of people and are not necessarily those of the designer.  The quality and value of the design is determined by how well the design address and solves the objectives of a project.

No Lines

Things aren’t always as clear cut as having or not having a purpose. The meanings of art and design can overlap or change depending on the perspective.  Since the words “art” and “design” have many definitions, it gets complicated we are start trying to draw lines.  For example, using a more general definition of “art” from the Webster’s Dictionary that says art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects,” it can be used to categorize art and design in itself.  Design and art both essentially fall under the “big picture” definition of art, so where is the line drawn?

In the design process, the designer’s creative thoughts and emotions also play into the overall design solution within the limits of the objectives of the project.  If this wasn’t true, then all design solutions would be exactly the same.   In a similar way, when artists are commissioned to do a piece, it is necessary for them to meet the needs of their client, thus blurring the lines between art and design.

Well ok, maybe I’m a little more of an artist that I thought.

Art and design can be separate and intertwined at the same time. It all depends on how you look at it.

Since I make my living as a web designer, creating websites that take into consideration the client and the needs of their consumers, I feel that I fall mostly in the designer category.  Although my work as a final result might not be a direct reflection of my own emotions and message, during the process I make artistic decisions to determine how the website visually functions and those decisions are the ones that make designing as expressive and free as art.  What is considered to be art and design is always changing so the lines do not stay clear or fuzzy for very long.

According to my own definition of art, this cupcake doodle below is considered to be art.  I originally drew it for no real purpose and it is what is (smiling and happy) because I wanted it to be.  But then I decided that its new purpose is to solve my problem of how I am going to end this article. Is my happy cupcake now considered art, design or both?


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