Artists, Designers, and the Totally Subjective Difference

In the recent weeks at Array, we’ve been working almost entirely on design, from icons, to UIs, to fonts. It’s been quite the ride, honestly. Then on Friday, Array was visited by graphic designer Bria Hammock. When we introduced ourselves to her, I pointed out jokingly that I was more of an artist and less of a designer.

Now, it seems that those two types of people are essentially the same, and in my mind, they frequently are. But not quite always. Like squares and rectangles, all designers are artists, but not all artists are designers.

The comic take on it is that designers have money and artists don’t. Designers market themselves, designers do what clients ask of them and don’t let themselves get stuck in their pride. Artists are too busy working for “the love of the craft” to get their heads on straight.

That’s what my initial thoughts were, anyway. I thought about it a lot over the weekend, though, and it seems to me that it runs deeper.

Good art is subjective, that’s pretty much an accepted fact. However unpleasant something might appear, if you put the right spin on it, the right meaning behind it, you can pass it off to somebody. But good design is objective. It changes as the years wear on, as trends come and go, and your design choices might be subjective, but at its core, design has very clear do’s and don’ts.

Designers have to try and evoke a specific response from viewers. They need the viewer to enter this shop, to buy this product, to use this app, so they have to make their design to attract.

The rules to make something attractive still exist in the rest of art, but outside of design, there’s room to break the rules. The impact is less negative. If a painting does not evoke the intended emotion of the artist, it can still be loved.

Poor design, however, will most likely drive people away from your product, and probably get you fired.

But what do I know? I’m not a designer.