What is design? What is art? Your opinion, please!

Reading Shelly’s post reminded me of something else… What is designing? What is art? Is there a strict line between them or does it depend on the point of view of the person? Do you know philosophical and social definitions you agree with – or you disagree with?

DSCF0798I’ll give you a short summary/quote of an article I have found about that. Please have a look here for the full article :) http://www.unc.edu/~jbrady/Essays/Art_Design.html!

Art and Design differ in several aspects.


Every design has a specified purpose (or several, for example how to serve the client’s interests or how to transport informations). Art on the otherhand has only its own purpose, it does not have to be useful or look out for pleasing people.

How they are made

The designer typically does not start from a scratch. He combines the client’s needs, the end use, the size, the color and the material. He has to envision the end product, use his technical skills to bring aesthetic sensibility and taste into it. The artist starts from a scratch. And although he usually may have a “picture” of his art in his mind, he is totally free in choosing his way to get there.

Making judgments

Art wants to achieve beauty, moral positioning, visionary truthfulness. Practical success is irrelevant (see Van Gogh attests). Design has to fulfill its purpose and then it is considered good and successful. If it does not achieve this, the design seems to have a flaw.

The audience

The audience of art wants to contemplate and reflect over artwork. Art is more a less like a mystery. Design is interesting and can affect the emotional state of its audience, too, but it cannot be a mystery at all. At some point it has to reveal its purpose.


I do not really understand the author’s point here but for me, art uses materials in surprising combinations and does not look out for restrictions and borders (in mind sets or tools). It is thinking BIG or very small. Designs have often a budget and the purpose is the main character who tells you what materials have to be used.

The difference between art and design is in the way we look at them. Design is meant to be looked away from and art to be looked at and into. Design graces our lives with the aesthetic presentation of useful and beneficial things, and art graces us with representations of things to ponder and perceive. Art and design are closely related but nonetheless separate.

©1998 Michael Brady. First published in Critique Magazine 1998.


Are you interested in a discussion of this topic? Comment! We can look at this from every personal point of view and get some new insights to that (so I will add it to the list of topics for our P&N series).


Are you interested in a serie of posts about how art and design differ?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...



About knitsewcrochet

Meet me on my "about kati"-page. Or you just want to get the picture? Okay.

Knitting designer. Admin of P&N blog, a partner blog for designers and artists. All about growth, visions & undiscovered countries. Nuremberg · pinsandneedles.de


One Response to What is design? What is art? Your opinion, please!

  1. ekaterin4luv 4. January 2014 at 12:19 #

    Design is a guide or thought, something that can even be transferred to another material or form.
    A bit like Platos theory of forms/ideas.

    Art an expression or statement. Something that transcendences a mere reproduction.

    That doesn’t mean it can’t be both.

    (Probably not really understanding some arts in some exhibition, it seams to me the “real” art is to sell it as art, sorry. Maybe not every art-piece is properly explained. That raises the question if art “needs” to be explained. Is it meant for others to understand?

Leave a Reply