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The role of an Artist vs. Designer

I believe that designers and artist operate very differently.

Artist can’t become a graphic designer without the similarly obtained knowledge that a designer has through their experience in the practice of design-related art disciplines.

Designers may have to absorb everything there is to know about art to help broaden their perspective to compliment the execution of various design work but it doesn’t require an artist to undergo the training it requires a graphic designer to become an artist.

I think that because Mason is a liberal arts school that many of us, here as students may find ourselves more deeply drawn into art and art making than usual- in other programs in various universities where graphic information design is categorized under a different department ie. the school of marketing- where the program may have the tendency to prepare their students with a more business-oriented mentality.

I also believe that designers and artist sometimes share a similar mentality and outlook where their work reflects their awareness of the environment around them. However, when compared to work produced by a graphic designer, work generated by an artist varies greatly by their objective.

Graphic designers and other designers are problem solvers rather than problem seeker

It doesn’t matter where you are, or what the task is, when you are given a task, you are able to apply yourself and work around the problem.

When art’s goal is to make a statement or confuse, design aims to communicate by presenting information in the most concise manner.

The distinction between art and graphic design is apparent in the way work is being presented. While art usually requires a brief explanation to back up the concept behind the work (because not every person who may come across art have been previously educated to understand the historical context underlying the work.) In contrast, a graphic designer has the responsibility to take into account the audience and how ideas such as the history of art function or can be implemented to impact its overall effectiveness in relation to the objective.

Also, design often doesn’t require further explanation because the designer has done all the thinking and planning so that things are more apparent to the viewer and appealing to the targeted audience.

What is most important is that both artists and designers have a keen eye and sense of creativity. Because we see and look at things differently than the average person, who wasn’t taught to do so- we are at a greater advantage. But I believe that in order for a graphic designer to maintain that advantage, it is important to submerge ourselves in art so that we can be informed and inspired by the concepts in art making, the history, the dynamics, and the process required for producing them. Therefore, understanding the intricacy in art making can become a viable asset for any designer- this is why we study and practice art. 


  1. minhtran wrote:

    Quite the analysis. I believe that in essence, everything can be considered art, doing what you love to do and doing it with a passion. Ideally though, Design is said to be separate from Art in the idea that it is someone else’s intent, someone else’s idea and not your own. You are just the creative outlet that fashions some sort of design for them.

    Of course, that’s not it, I believe you can always dig deeper into meaning. Where we design for others, for other peoples ideas, we are still using our creativity, we are producing these designs with our own minds. If we design for a certain aesthetic pleasure, it’s art isn’t it?

    Its all relative. Its all silly.

    Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  2. jamie wrote:

    Considering the number of posts on this topic, we’re apparently very concerned with mapping the differences and similarities between artists and designers. The motivation behind why we create keeps coming up as the most obvious difference. Yes, designers use their creativity to construct someone else’s vision, but traditional artists do that, too. Throughout art history, some of the greatest works of art were created because they were commissioned by the artist’s patron. Through they may have had more freedom to do what they wanted, they were still creating with constraints, particularly if they were creating a piece for a church or something of that nature.

    And what about the “rock star” designers, who have the freedom to create whatever they want? People go to Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, David Carson, and James Victore because they have a distinct style and want their signature looks. No client is looking over their shoulders telling them what to do.

    I don’t know why we need to point out the differences and similarities between art and design. I would be more interested to know how many of us would rather study painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. and are just majoring in graphic design so that we’ll be able to afford our true passions.

    Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 7:02 am | Permalink
  3. nikie wrote:

    As a marketer i can’t agree more with your categorizations. I’ve come across so many ‘graphics designers’ who simply would not listen to marketing when mkt department gives pointers as to what works and what doesn’t for the audience. It’s so common that it caused me to doubt whether or not I should direct graphics at all. Designers should take criticism far more than Artists in my opinion, because it’s not about what the designer him or herself, it’s about what the company or the audience wants. Artists can have more attitude with criticism because it’s an expression of themselves. But when I have to nicely and constantly remind graphic designers to line things up when things are messy, and I get attitude for it, it’s really discouraging.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink