The Difference Between Art and Design
Updated: May 22, 2021
And why it's imperative for designers to know that design is not art
When I was a teaching assistant for a university design course, the difference between art and design was something I spoke about often to my students. Many of them were emotionally attached to their designs, understandably so. I was a design student myself, and I felt that I put a little part of my soul into what I created. However, this is an incorrect approach to design. Now, as a professional designer, especially as a product designer, it’s essential to know the difference between the two and distinctively recognize that design is not art.
What is Art?
Art is a composition created by an artist to evoke emotions. How I view art and how you view art and what the artist intended may be quite different. And that’s okay. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Art can be interrupted differently by everyone.
Art is also timeless. Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is still one of the most widely notable painting in the world today and serves no purpose other than to be admired. For over 100 years, Starry Night is as it was when first painted in 1889.
Although recognition and validation are desired by all artist, I’m sure, as long as they feel that they’ve expressed their artistic vision into their art, they were successful.
What is Design?
Design is created by a designer for the user to serve a function. While art is interrupted, a design should give the user a clear message and purpose. Great design works seamlessly. It’s only when the design is flawed and does not meet expectations will the user notice immediately and associate it with not being user friendly or as a bad user experience.
Design is consistently changing. What is considered modern is different depending on the time. This is why clothing, cars, websites, all regarded as design, feels outdated after time has passed.
Although visual aesthetics is important, it’s how the user interacts with the design that determines its success.
It takes creativity, vision, and skill to execute an artwork or design. Although there is some overlap, the fundamental difference is that while art is about the artist, design is about the user. This is why artists tend to do a lot of soul searching and look for inspiration within to create their work because, without emotion, art is meaningless.
On the other hand, designers conduct a lot of real-world (UX) research of the current trends and what users would like to see and use while adding innovation rather than emotion into their work. This is why its imperative designers do not get so attached to their designs because ultimately, designs are not about them; it’s about the end user.