Untitled Design No. 1

As an aspiring designer, should I also aspire to be an artist? Is there even a difference?

This may be a touchy subject for many designers or artists and all the in-betweeners, but it has come to my attention a lot recently. I have access to both, being that I attend a school with “Art & Design” in the name. It’s a beautiful thing, but it sometimes seems to be a segregating thing. That ampersand is causing some division.

Maybe it’s not the ampersand, but seriously, what is it? I have been trying to investigate this from a completely unbiased standpoint. Being that I do not currently identify as either, and am unaware of which title I should choose at this point in my student career, I think now is a good time.

I regularly have discussions about the work of my peers, from those majoring fine arts all the way to industrial design. Some are trying to bridge the gap between art and design while others are fine with allowing for an obvious distinction. One of my peers recently switched from industrial design to fine arts and found that her knowledge of the design process makes her a better, more focused artist. She has said that it has helped her better articulate her work and learn more interesting production processes that will better portray her message. So for her, that blend between the two is doing some major magic. Whilst one of the design professors find that the fine line isn’t so fine. He believes there needs to be and is a great differentiation that allows artists to be in their own world and designers to stay in a more grounded, realistic space. Although that may be a more traditional look at the two, I find this is a common opinion. And then I have another peer who has trouble riding the line between the two in order to create both functional, innovative pieces that are also aesthetically powerful. He uses a different medium than most which is glass. That practice is usually tied to the idea of “craft”, and most artists want to steer clear of this word. A huge trend of a discussion in the art world is craft versus art. But that’s a different discussion. My peer’s issue is where does his glass work blend both production work and beautiful, flowing art. And who says it can’t?

Moving away from public opinion, I also looked into different definitions as described on many credited sources and articles. Most of them like to describe design as being more restrictive or process-driven. Although the argument against that is that many who identify as artists actually follow a very strict process, like the first peer I referenced earlier. Other definitions say that designers have to think “inside the box” to an extent in order to provide solutions to certain objectives. Then to combat that response, there are some majorly credited design companies that have made very creative spaces for designers to work within in order to completely free themselves from the strict rules of life and get them completely out of their own minds. And I can imagine that those who helped create those spaces used a level of artistic mindsets. Or maybe they ignored the division completely and just brought in intelligent and creative individuals to make cool shit!

Where the definitions get harsh is when there is a hard pull on the design side towards the engineering mindset. With a set of limitations, whether it be manufacturing or technological or even anatomically, it makes a certain level of what is created to be bounded by a realist brain. But I think many artists have to face restrictions as well, whether it be budget, time or space within a gallery.

At the end of the day we are all just trying to create original ideas or visuals that create an emotion and push the boundaries of the everyday. Much like any part of life,(i.e. gender, race, sexuality, occupation, religion) society and the world is trying to fit us into a defining identifier. But as we evolve and push those boundaries, humans are beginning to realize many of us just don’t fit into the boxes. Many of us don’t want a definer. Sorry to bring this to broader filter, but I find it extremely valid how many of these subjects are being pushed to their limits within the dialogue in our lives. One of those subjects being art versus design. I personally identify as a student. I am learning and developing my own identity creatively, professionally and personally. People ask me if I’m a designer, they ask if I’m an artist. I might just start answering yes to both and see what happens…

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