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Thread: Artist vs. Designer

  1. #1
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    A friend and I were talking last night and came to the conclusion that even though we all deal in visual imagry, some people are artists, while the others are designers.

    Artists are concerned with the feelings and emotions their creations cause or portray. They generally don't create with any specific purpose in mind, other than they feel the need to create something.

    Designers care about structure and form, more than meaning. Colour, shape, texture, layout... all of these are bigger concerns than the meaning of their work. They most often create because of a specific need of the end product (i.e. I need a banner for my web site, I need a layout for this newspaper).

    After sleeping on it, I began to wonder how the majority of Flashers see themselves (heh, just remembered... the visual forums here are split into art/anime and design ). Do you consider yourself an artist or designer? What things are characteristic of each, or of both? Is there really a difference or are my friend and I completely insane?

  2. #2
    Senior Member mg33's Avatar
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    Hey man, I hope this generates some good conversation, and you and I have had some good ones already.

    But...I am going to have to 100% disagree with the "artists generally don't design with any specific purpose in mind, other than they feel they need to create something."

    Two examples: Monet. I doubt his paintings were arbitrary work created becuase he needed to create something. Though, yes, Monet was concerned with emotion and pretty much all his paintings evoke emition, he had a reason behind his style and paintings, there was a purpose.

    Andy Warhol: We have been talking about him in my conecptual drawing architecture course. Take his paintings of the Campbell's soup cans. No one could convince me that he did these just to do something, in fact, there is enough information behind about his "pop" art for us to know there was a purpose. He painted ordinary things and icons in people's lives in a new light-the Campbell's cans are all not the same color as the normal cans. He was showing people the obvious things in their lives, but showing them that even though the colors change, you still know what it is.

    Both of these artists-and there are thousands more of them throughout history-had a meaning behind their art. Take impressionism as a whole, every part of it. Impressionist painters did not approach the canvas and generally think "I need to do something" The motive behind impressionism was to capture things in their normal state-people, landscapes, etc. I could never believe that this style was a "non-purpose."

    I would have loved to be in on that conversation, I'm sure it was a long one. I wish I had more people around here that thought about stuff like that. I may bring up your question in my next drawing class, as everyone in there are architecture majors, and architecture is a wonderful blend of art and design.

    The conclusion you and your friend arrived it seperates two very distinct ways of thinking about visual imagry. But more so, to me, it goes to define how many of us are both:artists and designers. And I have not really thought about it like that before.
    I mean, I have been doing art for years, since high school. I majored in Architecture for 2 1/2 years, and that is where i picked up what makes up my foundation for my graphic ideas and skills. Then in Advertising I learned more about the computer and print medium, and started to find more and more how my architecture experiences and love of architecture influence my designs-both print and web.
    In all of it, what drives me is to create images that convey emotion and feelings, but have a strong sense of graphic skill and harmony. Though art and design can be defined as you have defined them, the convergance of the two is very possible and is also done every day.
    Sure, if people say they need a banner, or layout, designers can do that. But what if a designer has no artistic ability? That will be a big influence on the success and look of the banner ad, or whatever they are designing.
    You said you have been doing graphic design for 5 years. That's wonderful However, I bet the last thing you would ever want to say is that you are not artistic and that you have no ability to contribute artistic thought and creation to what you design. Am I right? I would never want to say that, and I'm pretty confident that what I do is a combination of art and design, and I am certainly not the only one with the same combination.

    Well, need to get back to work, thanks for the great question, looking forward to your reply and other's opinions as well.

    Take Care,

    mg33

  3. #3
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    Ah, I see you've done your homework, grasshopper.

    Taking another look at that statement, you're probably right. Many of the greatest works of art were made because they were comissioned by patrons. I just don't see good ole Mike getting bored one day and then asking the Pope if he could spend the next four years painting his ceiling. Even if they weren't getting paid, they had a purpose: to make themselves happy or satisfied. I think that's reason enough.

    And I think you're right, again... any person that deals with the visual arts has to be a little of both. If someone said I had no artistic ability and my work has no meaning, I'd smack them upside the head. Or I'd want to, in any case. Having spent more time thinking about it, I think the artist vs. designer debate is more about the manners in which a person achieves the end result. Here's a better explanation of the conversation we had... maybe it will clear things up.

    My friend I spoke of is my roommate and good friend, Kristen (if I speak of my roommates a lot, it's because I have 4 of them and three of us are here 24/7). As much as I adore her, she has a very big problem in finding and keeping a job. So far this year, she's been through 23 of them. A few days ago she started a job at FedEx. After 45 minutes, she threw her badge down, and walked out. She came home, crying, sobbing, telling me she was insane and she hated her life and she was moving home.

    Being the busy-body I am, I couldn't leave it like that. We sat down in her room and started talking about the things in her life that she disliked. Lots of different things came up... her weight, the job problems, no direction, wanting to go back to school. After digging deeper into each of the problems, she discovered that a lot of her unhappiness is being cause by having no creative outlet.

    Thus, the art vs. design conversation was born.

    The dicussion shifted to how each of us structures our lives. Kristen is the type of person that needs constant inspiration. The ideas she gets come from no where. Sometimes she'll be sitting calmly at dinner, then all of the sudden she'll be screaming some crazy word or syllable she just thought of (like "pvvvt" or, "my name is Labla... Bob Labla"). When she draws something, she rarely knows what it will be until it's finished. She doesn't care if it's centered on the paper, she doesn't care if the lighting is right, and she most certainly could care less if it looked realistic. Then there's all of her stuff. She has a toy collection that would make Seinfeld dope her up in a heartbeat. She loves things that make her and others laugh, books that make her cry, music that makes her dance around like a moron.

    Then there's me. Everything I do has to have strict order and reason. I'm constantly moving furniture around, trying to get the most appealing function and look. I make chore lists. When I wake up in the morning, I do everything in the same order, every day. I'm constantly evaluating the things in my life, and reorganizing them to be the most efficient while still making sense. I'll start something, get halfway done only to discover a better was of having done it... so I'll start over. When I draw or paint, I go after realism to a point of being ridiculous (if you've gone to the Amen Carter in Ft. Worth recently, there's a painting there that's so realistic you'll be convinced at first that it's a photograph. The guy who did that is my hero).

    Hence, we decided I was a designer, and that Kristen was an artist (the conversation actually got more interesting after that... we got into the whole essence vs. existence and quality vs. quantity debates, too). In any case, it was something that had never crossed my mind before. I have a feeling when she wakes up we'll probably talk about it some more... I'll prolly show her the thread and see if maybe she has some new thoughts on it. I'm off to munch on Cheetos!

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    art class has just started up again (i just spent 5 hours on a small pencil drawing, uhg...) and your question is really a personal one to the artist...

    some artists do simply create to provoke an emotion or create a specific atomesphere, the more dramatic cases being abstract expressionism ( ie jackson pollock)

    i read somewhere that andy warhol ( i really like his cartoons and marilyn series) created his art as a response to the abstract expressionist movement

    some artists create to be 'rebels' in a way, and go against the stream ( dadaists)

    and still many create for desgin purposes. modrians work has greatly affected layout design, having his a layout named after him.
    however i agree that designers are more interested in structure and form, and how can they best place something to attract the viewers eye... and really, the commercial design is not meant to have a deeper meaning- what would be the point when people often just glance at it for a couple seconds...

    this is indeed an interesting topic...oh well, must finish the drawing... it was assigned today and due tomorrow...sigh

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    I don't think there will ever be a definitive answer to this question. The simplistic answer would be money (prostitution). A designer is willing to compromise and and sacrifice some design concepts for a price. An artist commits to a project, without guarranteed or implied compensation for the project.

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    I think associating designers with prostitutes is a little unfair. Designers are not better than Artists, nor is it true that Artists are better than designers. Both love what they do and make honest livings doing it. But if you enjoy dealing with sterotypes: how many designers can you think of that had a bad day and chopped their ears off?

    That said, more viewpoints to ponder. Artists: when an artist works, their creation is deeply personal. Though the opinion of others might be sought or welcomed in the end, these opinions rarely infulence the work under consrtuction. Designers: Create to please the popular majority. The opinions of others often influnce their work, so that the design will be pleasing to most when finished. Disagree/Agree? Anyt thoughts.

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    Sorry about the prostitute analogy--I got it from an art professor years ago. Who is more a prostitute than a teacher (those that can do, those that can't teach). What I meant was that a designer is more willing to release control for utility's sake, or to make a sale. Not that these individuals are less talented or skilled, just that their priorities are set more for the sale than the individual project or work's sake.

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    Just for the record Van Gogh was insane. He didn't cut off his entire ear, just a part (in order to make some sort of impact on his brother Theo). Not all artists are insane. Some designers may be. Van Gogh was an individual, all artists should not be judged by his aberherrations.

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    Phacker... meant no personal offence just attempting to illustrate a point. And I agree that designers do often have to go against their better judgement if a sale is to be made. It comes with the trade, unfortunately.

    I still think Van Gogh wasn't all there. Cutting off your ear is simply not a normal thing to do (and if it were, I'd be scared). But sane or not, he's still one of the greatest artists in history.

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    interestly, van gogh was inspired by starry night when he was staring out through the bars of his asylum window.

    artists do often ask for opinions and critiques from other people on their work during the process. it is especially important to see if someone understands your message behind the piece if that is what you intend to do. colleaugues can give excellent advice on composistion, layout, colour etc.

  11. #11
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    Ok, going to pitch in here, though you all seem to be old hands in the forums.

    I'm a painter turned web designer / newbie flasher (see http://www.flashkit.com/board/showth...threadid=23704 posts for site check submission - blatant advertising!)
    so very interested in this question.

    I paint part-time - see my work at http://www.3jay.com/alunward/ and design part-time, and find the whole "working for a client" thing really interesting.

    I have to admit I never used to take my designs as seriously as I took my work on paper / canvas, because I often fell into the trap of thinking whatever I did purely for myself was worth so much more than what I did for anyone else. That's the self-expression argument disappearing up it's own a***.
    Even when not selling art and making the most personal emotional works, an artist thinks about composition, effect, impact, arrangments of colour, shapes, and has a critic - him/herself.

    My problem as a designer is simply learning the tools of the trade.
    Using Flash is just so much harder than handling a piece of charcoal for me. But then that's a matter of training not a hard-wired brain. Once I've got my head around that I'm looking forward to getting truly creative, and hopefully on client's money too.

    Having said all that, I love getting down to the studio for some charcoal bashing with the knowledge that no-one cares what my paintings/drawings look like, except maybe my girlfriend and my mum! But you can have the same kind of free-for-all in some design jobs, just depends on how much of a rush there is for end-result. Many designs come from just such playful inspiration.

    Oh dear, I don't seem to have come to any conclusions do I? Too bad.


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    to attempt to create such distinct and simple definitions of the words "designer" and "artist" is wrong and futile in the first place.......

    anyone sucessfully involved in any form of art must be a good designer and a good artist.....whatever you want those words to mean.....

    whats your point for the question?

    more futile questions:
    is someone who designs roads an artist?
    is a belly dancer a designer?




  13. #13
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    It's not a completely pointless question, as society gives very distinct labels to "designer" and "artist" and values each accordingly.
    You tell someone at a party you're a designer and there's one reaction: "oh bum, and they've just seen my awful wallpaper",
    say you're an artist and there's another:
    "**** hope he doesn't get drunk and upset the furniture".

    I know that's trivial, but the point is, no one is now creating the labels of artist and designer in this forum, they already exist, and people here are examining what, if any, the differences are.

    Hasara, I take it your view is there are none. Great!
    And your "futile questions" have given rise to awful lot of art this century - artists asking whether or not someone untrained in fine art can be an artist. It's a role with a lot of kudos. Artists most often don't want to think everyone could be an artist, some rebellious ones (Beuys) think everyone is an artist, but I would be surprised if an artist somewhere hadn't created an exhibition on road design!

    But there are distinct roles in society for each in my view. To say an artist uses a designer's methods (and vice versa) doesn't imply they're doing the same job at all.

    You're definitely right that in general labelling people is a restrictive thing though. Myself, I want to be me, but I can't just put that on my business card (or can I???)


  14. #14
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    "I want to be me." Didn't Frank Sinatra have that on his business card? Was he a designer or artist? Actually I think it's the quality of the end result or product that defines the "maker". Was Frank Llyod Wright simply an architect, or an artist? You can have mastered the skills to create something, but if the "wow" factor isn't there--I don't think it will be considered art. By "wow" I mean something that makes one step back and reconsider ever having seen (heard, read, etc.) anything remotely like what you looking at, listening to, reading or whatever.

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    Yep, the "wow" factor, plus I'd add the "ecstatic" factor! ie art that takes you into another state where you may not even be thinking or considering things at all - I know that's possible, I'm like that all the time ;-)
    That's a hard feeling to convey on a desktop computer screen right now.

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    unpointed

    i never said "pointless"
    i said "what is the point?"
    and "yes" i do not believe great artists or great designers (using labels only for the purpose of this discussion) would attempt to wear either label....for both qualities are present and inseparable
    i am an registered architect and i also create web sites
    so what label should i wear?
    like popeye says "i am what i am"
    ...therefore, i take offense to the original question


  17. #17
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    to be blunt!

    I agree totally Hasara . . . but perhaps you underestimate the power and importance of language - of labels.

    By calling myself "me", I hope I'll never get in trouble, no-one can disagree with that label.
    By calling myself an "artist", I ally myself with a certain way of thinking / dealing with the world. I wish to be associated with certain other "great artists", to be considered part of a group of like-minded people, or perhaps to be considered a solitary avant-gardist. It's not quite the same calling oneself a designer - it just doesn't have all those historical connotations of immortal fame and greatness associated with it (yet).

    So in a sense I agree with you, there should not even be a discussion of artist v. designer, we should stop the thread right now! It is really a discussion of what is art, which could go on, and has gone on, for a very very long time.
    And as has been said, it's the resulting work/product/life work that will be judged.

    You're lucky not to feel any rift between your two creative jobs - what about that for a non-aligned "label", Creative. Smacks of advertising though. Oh god another label.

  18. #18
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    labels are for cans of soup

    yes labels like languages exist because we need them
    we use them
    we overuse them
    they are omnipresent

    i too use them
    i just try (the key word is try) not to use them when it comes to defining things in life

    if i was a can of soup, i would be the one with the label ripped off, and one would have to open me up and pour me out to find out exactly what kind i was....

    if a person doesnt feel like going to the trouble of opening the can to find out what kind of soup i am and prefers all soup to have labels, then i think that says something about that person....

    i prefer to be opened





  19. #19
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    We have an "architect" in this discussion. I was a landscape designer for years (11). My designs were as good if not better than some of the "landscape architects" fresh out of school, and not so fresh out of school. They used the term "architect" to denote their level of education (not experience). They got the big bucks. I hope the computer world, avoids these kind of incumbrances, but no field I have ever been in remains pristine. I started out in the library field (many of the people in the beginning learned on the job)--now you need at least a Masters to get anywhere. Everyone is out to protect their investment. In my opinion--You gotta have the WOW! or you've got nothing.

  20. #20
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    This is semantics.
    art = artis (latin?)= to know
    same as science = scientia =to know. to know the universe.
    (contrary to popular belief, science, esp. the "pure" sciences, involves a lot of imagination. science by definition cannot be "by design" because then it might not be true)

    design=designere (sp?)=to designate

    from the dictionary:
    design=
    To make or execute plans.
    To have a goal or purpose in mind.

    Design conotates a specific intention. You want to design a web site for yada yada yada. It must do x, y and z.

    Art conotates emerging. You want to paint so you start painting. In the process of art making you can "go with it".

    If you do that with you web design your client will say to you, "I didn't approve that". (learned that one the hard way).

    Of course artists can have intentions, too. However it is the freedom to be rid of intentions that allows for artistic genius.

    The merger of design and art is (thankfully) a frequent event. Someone mentioned Frank Loyd Wright. Well, he just narrowed his scope to "buildings" and then he just destroyed the concept of what had to be, and allowed what had to be to rise to the surface...I think

    Peace


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