Although there are many differences between these two, people often confuse them for one another or at least place them in the same “basket”. But are they really that similar or do they even share common goals?
Let’s start by looking at Merriam-Webster’s definitions:
Art – something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings; the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.
Design – the way something has been made: the way the parts of something (such as a building, machine, book, etc.) are formed and arranged for a particular use, effect, etc.; a drawing of something that is being planned or created.
Just by reading these descriptions alone we can already see a few clear distinctions. On one hand, art has no rules or boundaries, it’s emotional, it aims to inspire reflection and raise questions. On the other hand, design follows rules and proven structures to communicate in an effective way, it’s rational and it aims to answer questions.
Taking the comparison further, it’s obvious that art’s core function is to impress and determine an inner response, or at least set the stage for interpretation. But design’s main purpose is to plan, organise and make the information accessible, to a determined audience, so that the message can be clearly understood.
Essentially, I believe an artist is a cultural ambassador and a thought provoker, while a designer is a translator and a problem solver.
It looks like art and design can’t be considered quite twin brothers, but they certainly aren’t strangers either. 🙂