The Obsolete Difference Between Art and Design

courtesy Banksy
The reason why I have withstand a regular education in a national art school was mostly because of the difference that was made between art and design. This came to me actually as a shock back in the day.

It is obvious that art is meant to move you as a viewer, to make you think and to transport a message or meaning.

But wait, when was the last time a movie rocked you, or a great brochure made you buy this or that product or even a product was so great designed that you must owe it?
I guess the latter happens more often than the event that art can rock you, because art is something like a beast that is kept within stonewalls only visible to eligible personnel or educated overspecies of humans.

Putting the status quo into question.

This in return puts art into question and shows that great design can move us far more than art can.
The actual task to put the status quo in question has become obsolete and replaced by internet-meme´s.
Today´s aim for artist isn´t about being brave it is about being extreme.

The artmarket is not a mass market but it is a capitalistic one and if you ask me, one of the evil sort.
Especially artists get fooled in their education that is based on showing the finest techniques but the slightest possibilities to earn a living. There might be galleries out there who really try to push great talent, but they are rare and I havn´t found one yet that´d make me recommend them.

At least when an artist makes it to Christie´s it will be clear to them that their so called art or statement has become merely a status symbol for the rich to hang in their lounge bar.

I rather be an illustrator or designer than an artist because I´m not limited by the success of others.

As artist you have but one choice, be bold or beautiful.

Art has more in common with politics than one might think. It is easy to manipulate people to buy at a higher price if the artist is well known. Doesn´t this smells like branding? Yes it does and branding is part of design = corporate identity? IT is quite unintelligible why German artschools make a difference between art and design if the one does profite from each other.

A designer who knows how to compose like an artist has definitely an advantage in their market too.

However, it is just good to see so many talented people not buying the stuff that education will make them swallow, there is absolutely no reason to believe the theoretic approaches.

I find it harder to draw the line between art and design today. Where begins art, where starts illustration and where begins design. Maybe in the last century there was a reasonable difference. I heard people say there was a difference between art and graphical art, bullshit in my eyes.

The difference or better said the boundaries are often set to publicly dissociate from an image and to look more elite. Most art groups in the 1900 century stem from that background and still benefit from these established distinction.

I will not argue in this post what art is and what not as this is always a matter of taste. When it comes to artists, I support the message of Beuys that everyone can be an artist. This statement is today more true than ever. Other quotes such as the following  from David Hockney are just ridiculous: "Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus" -it probably was a hot day....

If design wouldn´t move David Hockney, he wouldn´t probably draw on an iPad.

There still are some myth about art that in my opinion have to be cleared:

  • Art is not about a statement or about making people move, it is about the artist, if you want to succeed you must be a successful artist first, the art is complimentary, nearly obsolete. 
  • Art is not about romantic starving artist clichee, if you fall for that vision it makes it even more difficult to get a real job. At the assembly line you can meet a lot failed artists that believed in the same shit.
  • Art and artist are not a central point in an exhibition, its all about the investors, sponsors and the hosts, who shine in the spotlight of your work, while they make business and you still have the costs.
  • True painted art isn´t really in demand. An alarming amount of museums and galeries show modern art as if we life in tommorrowland and no one would remember the times of the medieval age where artists used how to hold a brush anyways.
  • If your work needs 500 words depiction or more, it is most likely art. If the image tells more than your description, it is most likely an illustration, which falls under the category applied arts= design.

Please note, these posts are not written in an upset mood, these are just observations. But these also show the reasons why I´m rather a designer, because these are problems I rather don´t want to worry about.

If there is one gallery that have the guts and the patience to prove me otherwise I´d be more than willing to give it a try, but as long as people buy art to complement their couch I´m rather a successful designer than a disappointed artist.

Learn to illustrate your message through design and art.

If you are an artist or designer and want to pursue your dreams with passion, don´t depend on anyone, not a representant, nor a gallery. Instead find a mentor. Find someone who cares and find supporters who share the same ideals and visions as you.
Learn to use design to support your art. Learn to use art to support your design.

Be bold or beautiful, but don´t try to be both at the same time, that is just ugly and will please no one, ever.

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Anonymous11/20/2012

    Phenomenal. You are one the best commentators Ive read on these topics, always great stuff!




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