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A Love-Hate Relationship

downloadAs a design student I often find myself grouped together with the “art kids”. On some level that is true, I paint, I draw, and I like making things with my hands. But those are my hobbies. I repeat, my hobbies. Just like a journalist can write science fiction in his free time but he doesn’t have to call himself an author.

I also find myself increasingly annoyed with explaining what I do as a graphic design student. The more I talk to people outside of my field, the more I realize that to most people there is no distinction between fine art and design. And the few that think there is a difference ask me if I could code. Or use Photoshop. Or make digital paintings. Or “Oh, is that like …fashion?”

Does anyone else find it gruesome to answer these questions over and over again?

Design needs to serve a purpose. There should be a reason for everything a designer does, and good designs need to be understood. In order to become a good designer, I find myself learning and using a wide variety of skills. Skills that many people would consider polar opposites of each other. Coding and drawing. Typography and 3d designs. Design can overlap with anything and everything, making it difficult for outsiders to pin point exactly what graphic design is.

And that is where the problem lies; design is everywhere and on everything, but yet it gets so little recognition from the mass public beyond “Oh, what a nice poster”. We as designers need to take initiative and make ourselves heard. Next time people ask you how design is different; take five minutes out of your day and explain it to them.


[click here for examples if you can’t come up with your own.]


  1. tbatzori wrote:

    Hi, I understand the frustration but I think design is part of art. Art is every where, but design solves problem.
    I also understand people who are not familiar with the field. Like you said, we just have to make little bit of time and explain the difference to them.

    Keep it up!

    Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  2. echua2 wrote:

    Hey Zhao, this is exactly my sentiment with when people confront me about design. It irks me so much how most people cant distinguish a designer to an artist; yet these same individuals know which doctor specialize in which area.

    However, one thing about design, for me design is a hobby and a career :).

    Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  3. cburges7 wrote:

    Your topic resonates with me as a practicing artist and designer. I totally understand your frustration with people being ignorant of the significance / duties of a professional graphic designer. With the field growing, there are so many different concentrations one can go in to, so I think it’s easy to misunderstand what we do.

    Most fields get general stereotypes attached to them. However, when you place yourself in between “the judgers” and “the art kids”, maybe it’s possible you’re treating the fine arts disciplines and “art kids” exactly how you don’t want the field of graphic design to be treated/looked at. For example many graphic designers must look to professional illustrators, painters, photographers etc as part of their designs. For many of us in the design program, our skills stretch between the two.

    Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  4. zxiao wrote:

    Hey, I definitely agree with you. I often hear people say, “Oh, you are graphic design major, so you must be good at photography and drawing!” or “Graphic design is cool! So can you draw?” I just ruefully repeat my answer again and again. But if our explanations can make them know what is design and know more about it, it is also a good result.

    Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink