Why We Need to Divorce Art from Design


Once upon a time, our society revered and celebrated artists.

They were held in the highest regards and entrusted with the most honorable of tasks- from depicting Gods and decorating cathedrals, to capturing the portraits of rulers and holy men.

But somewhere between the Renaissance and today, things changed.

While Da Vinci and Michelangelo are household names associated with immense creativity, the Art department is first to be defunded when a school’s budget tightens.

Art is no longer sexy.

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Idioms like “the starving artist” and degrading memes have demoralized artists so much, that they’ve stopped calling themselves artists and instead have adopted the identity of designers.

  • Graphic Designers
  • Fashion Designers
  • Stage Designers
  • Sound Designers
  • Visual Designer
  • Motion Designer

What do they all have in common?

None are actually designers.

The Designer Litmus Test:

If the outcome of your work cannot be right or wrong, but only liked or disliked- you’re not a designer, you’re an artist.

That is not an insult; artists should proudly proclaim their title as they play a vital role in products by adding an emotional dimension.

Art is that memorable sound when you first turned on your first Playstation…



It’s the packaging you touch before getting your hands on the new iPhone…

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1*hhUEkclQR6drmkV5jgJtNw Why We Need to Divorce Art from Design

… or that silly dancing ghost when you refresh your Snapchat feed.

Simply put, art is the way you feel when using a product.

Then there’s design.

Where art decorates, design solves.

Design is not just the way something looks, it’s how it works.

Due to the interchangeable use of terminology, many misconceptions have emerged throughout the years. Perhaps it’s easier to dispel them by stating what design is not:

Design is not a synonym for decorative creative decisions.

Art is expressive, design is pragmatic. Designers don’t “make” creative decisions, they arrive at them through reasoning.

Design is not an Art, but an artform.

A chair can only be liked or disliked only once it fulfills its function. Design is more closely related to Engineering than to Art. Assumptions are tested, efforts are quantified and results are measured.

Good design doesn’t always mean good looking.

Although desired, aesthetics are secondary to function, thus the canonical principle “form follows function.”

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1*RcF2NkMw6UNPRxVbr29GgQ Why We Need to Divorce Art from Design

Good design is functional, great design is also beautiful.



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