Art and Design

As an UI and UX designer I’ve been a lot of times mistaken as an Artist. Oh boy I would love to be an Artist, but I’m not and I don’t even have an Art degree. I’ve a Multimedia Communication Master where I learned how to plan a product, how to design a product and how to develop a product. Strange is that I was better at the development part and as the time passed I changed my focus and expertise to plan and design. If you are a UI and UX Designer like me, at some point on your career some client should said something like this to you: “Hey go to your magic room and create awesome artistic stuff!” Well I think that’s time to write about the difference between art and design.

The Starry Night — Van Gogh

What is art?

That’s kind of a philosophical question isn’t it? Everyone knows how to identify it, but few can define it. It can be a painting, it can be music, it can be magic moment of soccer. It depends on the eye that’s looking at it. So that’s it, art is not about an object, is about the interpretation that people make of it and it happens when some sorte of extra-ordinary thing happens. Interpretation is the keyword here and that’s what distinguish art from design.

Light Switch

So what is design?

Design is a discipline that exists in order to study and solve problems delivering clear communication. An artist knows that not everyone will see what he is doing the same way, he also knows that maybe only a small percentage of his audience will get what he is doing. A designer no, a designer has to think how the hell he will get the majority of his users to get it right. I design interfaces, my main objective all the time is to make questions like: “what’s the propose of this app?”, “what will the user want to achieve here?”, “will the user get it clearly?”. That’s the kind of questions that a designer do and only after answering to this questions we can start building something. On the other hand an artist should ask “what am I feeling?”, “how do I translate my feeling into something?”.

If you are trying to be an artist when you should be designing, maybe you are doing a bad job. When I started working some years ago I was doing some interface development and we had a designer there. He was designing for the web using Helvetiva New at 11pts. I suggested that he putter it bigger, a lot bigger, because it would improve the readability, my 50 years old father would never read that with a so small font, even I would struggle after 1 paragraph. The answer from him and from the person in charge of him was: “It would be more readable, but this way it looks better”. This is a classic example of a designer ignoring what we should do: Give clear information to users.

So I hope I could make it clear. A UI and UX Designer is not an artist, despite the fact that we can bring some art to our work, that’s not our main objective.

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