When I entered art school as a freshman, the college I attended was known as Moore College of Art. By the time I graduated, it had become Moore College of Art and Design.
I remember in those early months a conversation with a fellow student who dismissed me as “not a real artist” after learning my major was Fashion Design.
Soon, the unwritten rule of who was a true artist and who was just there to “make money” (a myth, as it turns out!) became clear.
The “real artists” wore their paint-stained comfortable clothes for “serious work” in the studio and we, the fashion designers, wore our shoulder pads, acid-wash denim and over-tweezed eyebrows with pride. We each went to our respective domains, never to intersect or overlap, and the subject was never brought up again.
Until…we became Moore College of Art and Design. Design was right there, alongside Art…a sign of respect (literally).
So what is the difference between art and design?
Why the long-standing controversy over whether art is design or vice versa or if they’re simply too distinct to compare?
And where are we today on this question?
Paul Rand, the quintessential graphic designer of our time, doesn’t exactly narrow it down,
“Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it’s so complicated.”– Paul Rand
He also states (brilliantly, I might add!) “Design is everything…EVERYTHING!”
So while Paul is happy to leave us questioning, perhaps these quotes might help clarify the current thinking (thanks to Pinterest for keeping the conversation so visually accessible and appealing!):
“Design has to work. Art does not.”– Donald Judd
“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.”– John Maeda
As the twists and turns of life would have it, many years later (and thankfully, with no more acid-wash denim in sight), I entered the world of fashion design and went on to become a professor at two prestigious design schools, teaching for the Fashion Design Programs.
Today, the core course I teach (one that I truly wish had been around back in my shoulder pad days) is called “Visual Communication Studio.” In my classroom, I create a space where students are encouraged to joyfully embrace art and design and all the wonderful discoveries, explorations and creations in between.
And yet, as I’ve seen and experienced as both practitioner and professor, and as Kanin Chuenmeechow states, ”Some designers consider themselves artists, but few artists consider themselves designers.”
Which begs the question why?
Let’s look at some of the highlights from my curriculum:
- The Principles of Design
- Typographic Hierarchy
- Observation and Interpretation of the Human Form
- Concept-Development and Critical Thinking
- Story Telling, Narrative and Articulating Message
- Branding, Identity, Communicating and Engaging your Audience
- The Basics of Composition and Color Theory
- Experience, Empathy and Connection
- Rendering, Stylizing and Illustration
- Voice, Point of View and Aesthetics
So from my vantage point and experience in the current field of design education, I’d have to say I’m less concerned about the debate and more passionate about creating an empowering creative experience.
Some patience and tenacity.
Some powerful moments and connections.
And so much more…
I’ll finish up by adding some of my own (Pinterest-bound, I hope!) quotes that came to mind as I pondered this eternal question:
“Art vs. Design represents experimentation vs. application of universal principles and theories.”
“Art is Observation, Expression, Storytelling. Design is Thinking, Experience, Strategy”
“Art may be an inherent talent…Design can absolutely be learned!”
So keep expressing, solving, sharing, connecting, learning the rules and then breaking them.
As it turns out, to express our stories, connect with our audience and communicate powerfully…we need BOTH art AND design!
Written by Shireen Soliman || Guest Blogger; Artist, Advocate, Visual Communication Design Professor
“Shireen Soliman is an Muslim-American artist, educator, advocate and mother. Aligning her unique personal and professional worlds, Shireen creates art, offers workshops and speaks on topics including Fashion, Design, Identity, Culture and Narrative.”