Why We Need to Divorce Art From Design

I have enjoyed reading and listening to you James, and smile at the way you cast a net in order to learn from others. I sometimes think your lens is a little idiosyncratic, though, sometimes superficial, and often tied to the money-making aspect of things. That’s your area of expertise. My area of expertise has been design for over thirty years, and I have been intimately involved with artists all my life. I spent 18 years in Italy learning about the art of design. I agree that design is a problem-solving activity, that being its primary distinction from art. I don’t agree that art is primarily concerned with pleasing others. Artists are voices who have access to a language through natural inclination and study, and the best of them report on society, history, and technological evolution in a way that bypasses our conventional forms of communication. Many are deeply narcissistic. Art is an urge.

With respect to design, I don’t believe you understand the intention of “form follows function.” It means that form emerges from the satisfaction of function, not that it is secondary to it. And when design is informed by science, technology, social culture, and stands firmly on the shoulders of history, its beauty is just about inevitable. And what is beauty after all but brilliant function? Look at any ancient fertility fetish if you need convincing.

I hope you read this, James.

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