“It Made Scars In The Sky” — Cyril Rolando

Lifeless Design Lacks Art

You can find designers of every medium that will credit “problem solving” as the core of what they do, or as a synonym for “design”. This can often be heard along side “the difference between art and design”. Meaning, design differs from art because only design is problem solving. “Design is not art” and we must always separate the two with a hard line. Graphic designers especially, are apposed to injecting the idea of “art” into their practices.


I do not believe we have to separate art from design, and I do not believe design to be defined purely as problem solving; only a small part of the process. Graphic Design, let alone “Design” itself, means too many things to be handcuffed to one tool in our creative cabinet. The kinds of problem solving I find in graphic design, I also find in the arts. (A lot of reverse engineering, for example). I believe there is much more overlap than most will give credit for.

And I wonder if that’s not just a public pandering to clients to shape graphic design as a professional trade industry worthy of it’s $100K+ invoices and not some “art project”? Not to say that graphic design isn’t, I’m a supporter and like $100K as much as anyone else, but I don’t think the big picture is fully formed there.

Graphic design is visual, and more than anything else it is communication. Aesthetics are how we communicate messages and ideas without using words. For graphic design to be unique, surprising, and expressive, it needs a personal touch from the creator — in short, there needs to be an artistic approach to it.

If graphic design is left only to solving problems, then it is my belief it will become lifeless. You can make a logo or identity that does everything it needs to do like, be distinctive and unique enough to be appropriate for whatever niche it lives in, but without any personal touch it can become systematic, predictable, safe, and boring. It becomes the Chase Bank logo.

Good graphic design requires imagination and going beyond just solving a problem. The Nike swoosh wasn’t created just to look good on a shoe, it is one persons interpretation of a wing in motion. If you give the same brief to 10 logo designers, you likely will get 10 different solutions. So, not only is some sort of artistic personal touch necessary, it is unavoidable. It’s best to embrace that, not fight against it.

When we talk about building brand identities or logos, we talk about the expression and visual communication of a brand’s essence, personality, or core beliefs. It’s about saying to the world who this thing is at their heart and why they exist through shape, color, type, texture. . .

How could that not be considered art?