Art and Design, the Discussion Continues...

Over at LinkedIn in the advertising-creatives group, Lindsay Sleightholm from 3H Communications posted an interesting link to her article about the neverending topic "Art and design, where´s the line drawn?"

So it was logical for me to bring my point of view to the table and as always in LinkedIn groups I was glad to receive interesting feedback, and of course, new interesting insights, which led to this second post about this matter.
Illustration for Innsmouth-Free-Press:
"Fungi Anthology" and also artistic
 output for a steadily growing, personal
series, called "transgenetic metahuman"

In the following I will go about some comments that made me think, instead of rolling the article up from the back.

What is graphic design?
Similar to art, graphic design lacks a satisfactory definition.

This is a brave statement but I can´t really agree, this tends to lean towards the assumption that art is fun and design is work, but if someone is a passionate designer, this statement holds no truth, what then?

In general my thought is, that art and especially visual art, had its glorious days in medieval times, when artists risked their life to express themselves or to deliver a brave message, incorporated secret messages into oilpaintings and to show or illustrate ideas or news that no one has ever seen before, today we have the internets for that!

Sketches from DaVinci are considered art, while for him they were merely illustrations and graphics to get his ideas to paper. The main necissity of art at its core has vanished. Its merely replaced by design that has the aim to please crowds or to function. Even museums consider to show rather modern art than artworks that are a display of crafted mastery, (with a few exceptions, Louvre, Rijksmuseum, etc).

So, what we interpret into a work, makes art art, not what the artist does.

And, in the arts there is an unrealistic imbalance, there are only 10% rich and 90% poor. Believe me, even if you can make a decent living as artist, you are poor compared to the 10%. The key idea that makes the 10% rich, is that they focus on money, not art.

One side of my opinion goes that there is no real difference between art and design anymore, because if you want to be recognized you have to please crowds or stand out in a sympathical way, both ideas work. But they are not about art, they are about success. Art is about a statement and to deliver this statement you have to be either bold or be beautiful. But there is a significant difference between pleasing a crowd and wearing the inside out.

Another problem we face is that if you are not famous, no one will take you serious, while on the other hand you can do anything if you are famous and people take you serious even if it is the utterest bullshit you are doing.

In the discussion mentioned above, Luana.S. posted this comment:
"You create art for your own satisfaction, and you create design to solve a clients problem and sell their product or service. The success of art is not based on profit, where in design or art direction, you are directly responsible for the success of the clients product, with your work."

While the first sentence is true, the success of art IS based on profit. You will never find a wealthy artist who will support this statement. You might have ideal standards and do things with passion, but what brings the food on the table is still money. What many artists are lacking is the understanding for passionate marketing and a healthy relationship to money.

Derrick C. posted in the discussion supporting Lindsay´s article:
" I think you're close to the mark with art being subjective and design being objective. I interpret that as meaning art is for the person that creates it and graphic design is for the people that consume it. To me that's the difference and the two...they seem so similar (they can look the same) but are worlds apart. ... Art is about you, graphic design is about others."

While I support the statement too, there is a problem when art is for the person that creates it, because then art is just created for the sake of art and not to communicate a statement, it has no meaning and no value attached to it, theoretically it´s done in-and-for a vacuum. On the other hand the statement, Art is about you, graphic design is about others, is right up my street in terms of definition.

The close-to-final statement from Lindsay´s post:
"Art is subjective, while design is objective. In other words, art can be open to interpretation, whereas design requires complete clarity in order to be effective. What’s more, art involves a degree of self expression. Graphic design expresses in order to aid communication – if not, it fails to do its job. Consequently, art and design can no longer be considered the same thing."

I think as a bottom line, there is truth in these sentences, but the definition is important; design requires clarity, which goes well with my sentence from my recent blog post: 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.

I´m really passionate about this topic, hence the second post, but it is also great to see others sharing their opinions. This engagement is highly educating and leading towards a better understanding.

What´s your opinion?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Written by

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. Dear Oliver,

    I agree with a lot of statements here or at least I agree with a lot of them partly.
    I think it is not possible to define art or design in one sentence. Furthermore I would even say, maybe it is not possible to define them in a static description. That would mean as well that you can't 100% define a static line which puts them apart. It is not that I would say you can't define it at all, just probably not define it in any easy way since both, art and design, are connected to e.g. time, society and personal views (last meaning that everybody looking at a painting or illustration will see it in a different way because of their background).
    "While I support the statement too, there is a problem when art is for the person that creates it, because then art is just created for the sake of art and not to communicate a statement, it has no meaning and no value attached to it, theoretically it´s done in-and-for a vacuum." I agree with that...but (there always has to be a but somewhere ;)). What then about art where the artist himself is saying "aahhhh, no, there is no real deeper meaning in my paintings. I just like to paint and I am happy that there are people out there who are willing to pay for it" ? Then these painting are raised high because some critic wrote a great article about it etc and the main conclusion is = big time art. But is it then? There will be pro's and con's for and against it. But it kinda shows the problem I try to point out with defining art. When art is no longer about some kind of mastery but just about somebody thinking to have found a deeper meaning aka a statement in it (and it doesn't matter if that person is the artist himself or somebody else) isn't it just up to people? up to us? Is it not art because the artist does not want to communicate a statement? Or is it, because somebody found a statement in it and says that it is art?

    How far can you go with pretentious descriptions giving art a reason to exist?

    I think there will be never a satisfying conclusion to these questions. At least not with what art is or has to be nowadays. There will always be two or more sides having a discussion about it. Maybe that is one of the core things of both, art and design: Giving people the freedom to think or feel whatever they want about it, but let them come together, sharing their views and opinions and maybe agreeing that no static definition is needed.



    PS: It does not fully get the heart of the matter (of your post) but it is kinda connected and maybe you will find it interesting: it is a BBC documentary about mastery and art and tries to tackle the problem of beauty or the lack of it in (modern) art.

    1. Dear Ankat, thanks for your lenghty and insightful comment, very appreciated. I know some points of the post seem to ask for a stance, either toward or against a statement in art. But this would be too black&white...

      I hope you´ve also read the article of Lindsay (linked at the top) as it gives also food for thoughts.

      It is clearly silly to say art has to have a statement when the art created for oneself is a result of practice, or just for fun but then on the other hand, this probably is something you won´t see in an exhibition.

      When practicing and creating art, the result is very often without meaning, and nothing speaks against creating something beautiful. But if as artist you masterd your skills and everything possible, what then? I believe as artist we have not only a gift, we have the chance to change something for a better. And this means to exceed the boundaries, defining new goals and most likely we seek communication through our art. If it is not a statement, than it is the matter of discussion we can cherish. So in that matter I totally agree.

      Thanks for sharing the link to the video, I´ll have a look later, sounds very interesting!


    2. Dear Oliver, I indeed read Lindsay's article but I have to say in some parts I found it rather a rough sketch, or maybe more a text that gave the initial start for the thoughts about this subject :)

      I fully agree with you in the matter that we as artists not only have the chance to change something for a better, but also the responsibility to do so. But what I ask myself (and I try to talk with as many in art involved people about this topic) does the message in art justify to make...yeah....can't call it bad art....but art that does nothing more than repell or is so coded in itself that nobody without a specialised background will even try to see or find a message. Or art which seems vacant to an average person because he/she doesn't even see the difference between art and not art (just the little sign is telling him 'this is art')...

      I find it hard to see that the artist really wanted to have a statement there when it is just clear to himself and the ones who learned it from him. Is then this kind of coded art, just possible to get access to it with a certain background, not as much for the artist himself as a 'just for fun'-piece of art is for himself?

      Closing this, way to interesting, exchange of thoughts I would like to add how much I enjoy your digressions, open questions and tipps here in your blog.



  2. Dear Ankat,

    thanks, I saw the video and support the effort of Roger Scruton. It´s interesting, he does what actually the artists should do by putting the "status quo" into question.

    I understand you and agree about the questionable necessity of art that exists because of a statement.
    My opinion is that this comes merely from trends in art, people like to see the new, the exciting and with Marcel Duchamp the art world had become something that was so trivial that it changed the way we perceive art until today. And many try to mimic that. It was kind of a rebellion, adolescence of art and artists if you so want. My guess is that it is only a question of time until people are sick of seeing animals in formaldehyt. Then artists probably can get back to beauty.

    The thing about the "coded" works you mentioned is probably comparable to jokes, some jokes only work if you know a certain kind of people, things, etc.

    And people feel special when they know something, others don´t know and have what others can´t reach in a lifetime. For them, the message or statement is everything, its about storytelling, nothing more, nothing less.

    I have to thank you for the interesting feedback and glad you like the blog,




Popular Blog Posts

Recent Blog Posts

Copyright © The Art of Fantasio | Terms + Conditions