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The Timeless Debate between Art and Design

Designers and artists would both agree art is very different from design, then how come design gets confused with art so often?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

To answer that, first of all, let’s understand various forms of art and design, both being umbrella terms, and how they are different. And then we see why they get confused, how their relationship has evolved and what’s next?

Art is all about expression, it can be visual arts (including architecture, ceramics, drawing, film-making, painting, photography, and sculpting), literary arts (including fiction, drama, poetry, and prose), performing arts (including dance, music, and theater) and the list goes on and on.

Design is about utility, web design, industrial, product design, fashion design, UI/UX designer, product design, graphic design, animation designer, interior design, motion graphics design, visual design, fashion design to count a few.

Here are the major differences:

Art is expression, Design is solution. The main difference between art and design is the process and the goal.

Art is mostly about how an artist feels about the world which may or may not be the same situation for everyone. Design is not what you feel, it’s researching how a user feels and how to improve it.

To elaborate,in the process of art the artist observes and feels the world around then they ideate instinctively, the outcome is the beautiful portrayal of most complex feelings and observations which otherwise is difficult to express.

Designers, on the other hand, aim towards making our lives, everyday interaction with things and sometimes people better. Designing is a nonlinear, iterative process of researching the situation, most of the time they interview and observe the people facing and coping with different problems, then through detailed analysis and ideation the designer comes up with a solution, he then tests and iterates,and the final outcome is a modified solution to problems people have faced.

Art is multifaceted while design must be obvious.

There can be different meanings of an art piece. Also abstractions of art are sometimes difficult for inexperienced eyes to understand, but design focuses on conveying a single meaning for everyone, essentially easy to understand and adopt.

Art is a more free form of expression which is based on artists instincts, design is disciplined and research based and must be intuitive to the user.

How has the perspective changed over the years?

Photo by British Library on Unsplash

Both art and design are as old as human history. We can trace early evidence of art in cave paintings, folk songs, which was about expression of our feelings and also our daily observation.

Design came into being through our creative ancestors, the early humans, they always had some way or the other to make their lives better and better, the wheel, agriculture, clothing, fire, being some of earliest examples of design thinking and problem solving.

.. design should begin by identifying a human or societal need — a problem worth solving — and then fulfill that need by tailoring technology to the specific, relevant human factors.

— Kim Vicente, Former Professor, University of Toronto

Design has always been a multidisciplinary subject, it has something good to take from all disciplines of education, be it physics, sociology, psychology, art, craft, just everything.

Why are both confused so often?

When we design a solution, it has to be expressed some way, right!

Design borrowed the art of expression from artists.

The expression of the solution designed can be expressed in a very handy manner using art. Not only that, we have often seen creatives playing with art in visual design to make products more desirable and interesting mostly fashion design and graphic design.

What designers and artists have in common?

  • Empathy
  • Observation
  • Aesthetics or a strong sense of what looks good.
  • Patience
  • Thorough understanding of various available resources and how it can be used to bring out desirable results.

Can designers be artists and artists be designers?

Necessary? Not at all, but believe it or not , we are all artists and designers by our very nature, designers have always sketched their ideas, artists have designed tools for themselves, we all in our daily lives have sketched something or the other out of, say, boredom, interest or sometimes sheer necessity and most probably used design thinking to solve some problem.

What does the future hold?

AR and VR has an interesting scope where designers and artists both can contribute and collaborate in many creative ways.

Art of expression empowers design and design empowers art, the future is bright together.

This article has been written by Nimisha Das, an aspiring UX designer specialising in HCI and a self taught artist. You can find her on LinkedIn, Instagram and Behance.

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