Design vs. Art Quotes

From the your-audience-knows-best department…

Last week I posted Design is not Art, Redux, another discussion about one of the principles I design by. The post ended up being the smartest thing I’ve posted in a long while, and it wasn’t because anything I said. My readers, Bokardoans, as I like to call them, shared some seriously deep insight into the issue. I’m reposting some of my favorite responses here…but the whole thread is interesting.

Mark Rodriguez asks:

“I think the conversation boils down to that design and art are totally judged by two different measurements of value. The purposes are different. Is the purpose of design to ‘touch the soul’ as most art aspires to do?”

From the your-audience-knows-best department…

Last week I posted Design is not Art, Redux, another discussion about one of the principles I design by. The post ended up being the smartest thing I’ve posted in a long while, and it wasn’t because anything I said. My readers, Bokardoans, as I like to call them, shared some seriously deep insight into the issue. I’m reposting some of my favorite responses here…but the whole thread is interesting.

Mark Rodriguez asks:

“I think the conversation boils down to that design and art are totally judged by two different measurements of value. The purposes are different. Is the purpose of design to ‘touch the soul’ as most art aspires to do?”

capa observes:

“Art is some guy using a medium to change how you see the world. Whereas design is changing how we live in it.”

Jens Meiert, who created a web site 11.77 miles high, responds:

Art: Art hides. Art has a meaning, and it hides it, on purpose. Art delivers a message, and it’s hidden, on purpose. It is an art to create art. Art is unusable, by definition.

Design: Design reveals. Design reveals meaning, design reveals a message, design reveals function. Bad design does the opposite: It obscures, it hides. The reason why that almost never makes bad design art is that the subject is supposed to be revealed.

Andy provides a simple distinction:

“Design is about solving problems. Art is about creating them”

Gong Szeto has grappled with this before:

“i think the distinction is really about the framework of “rules” within which the designer/artist operates. the designer’s rules are most certainly external to themselves (client problem sets) and the artist, well, they make up their own rules (their own problem sets). both can utilize any kind of formal, intellectual, material, etc strategy to “produce” something of value, and sometimes artifacts from either discipline can and do resemble one another, but their origins have very separate and distinct motivations. designers try to solve problems for others, artists solve problems they themselves invent.”

And someone (not sure who), channeled Erik Spiekermann:

“Design is first and foremost an intellectual process. Contrary to popular belief, designers are not artists. They employ artistic methods to visualize thinking and process, but, unlike artists, they work to solve a client’s problem, not present their own view of the world. If a design project, however, is to be considered successful – and that would be the true measure of quality – it will not only solve the problem at hand, but also add an aesthetic dimension beyond the pragmatic issues. I consider design not to be a series of “creative” one-offs, but an integrated process, from planning the appropriate communications strategy to designing functional and beautiful objects as well as – for example – implementing electronic stationery on clients’ systems. What clients say and what designers hear are too often very different things. Design is a powerful tool to help clarify the problem. It is only when a common understanding has been established between client and designer that effective results can be achieved. Design quality needs an integrated approach: look more closely than expected, ask many questions, think laterally, get involved in things you shouldn’t, do more than you are supposed to and have fun doing it. Problem solving is one thing, aesthetic pleasure another. Combine the two, make the engineer sketch like an artist and make the artist analyze like an engineer, and you are half-way there.”

Published: June 21st, 2007

The What to Wear Daily Report. A simple daily email with clothing recommendations and other info based on the weather. Remarkably useful. It's free to sign up.