Impact, by Design

I’ve been privy to many arguments about the differences between art and graphic design. Some say art is more about expressing emotion and design is a calculated outcome defined by rules. Others say art is all about how a viewer interprets it and design has intended goals. I think there is a lot more overlap than that. A lot of times, art takes a rigorously planned out path where as design comes out as a spontaneous gesture. Likewise, a design can be interpreted in many different ways no matter how much effort was put into crafting an obvious conclusion.

Despite their similarities, I do believe that they should be criticized on different scales. The primary focus of good design is to solve a problem. That problem could be as simple as forming an honest representation of a product with a brand or figuring out a comfortable path for readers in the layout of a magazine. Art can at times be used to solve a problem but I would argue that those artworks are designed to do that. So why is it that design isn’t judged on it’s ability to solve problems?

“When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

In my experience, most graphic design is judged on the way it looks rather than what it does. No matter how much thought is put into function, form seems to win out. This perpetuates those trendy waves that swell and die out year after year. It also seems to cut down on people’s efforts to actually use graphic design for good. In a perfect world design would be judged on impact. Even if that impact is very small or only has the potential to be effective. After all, any design that tries to solve a problem is inherently beautiful no matter what it looks like.

    Anthony Schmiedeler

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