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Essay: Art & Design

I once believed the difference between art & design was that art asks a question where design solves it. I was an artist at heart but a practicing designer, and I took it to heart so much so, that I inadvertently squashed out the artist in me until she was forgotten, and angry. I began to really hate that philosophy. I even wrote an article highlighting the differences here. As an artist/designer, how could I only be solving problems or only asking questions when my work felt like both?

Over the years, I began to notice design was often shown in conjunction with art or vice versa in art museums, magazines, galleries & design showrooms. I also noticed, that many art pieces didn't pose any questions or provocations, while many design pieces did. I myself, a designer, often presented to clients art & design as one package, pieces of a puzzle that fit together to create one experience.

Only recently have I questioned and disbanded the belief that one only asks questions & the other only solves problems, in essence, design was not art. Over my career, it seems I've found design & art are more similar than not. The major difference between art & design that I've noticed, is not in the questions, but in the process. Or rather how a viewer sees or does not see the process.

In art, the end result is a by product of the process. The art process is beauty. And without the story of the art piece's significance (the process of its inception & creation) we might not understand the beauty of the work. Take for an example, artwork that looks like a piece of trash on a blank background. Without the knowledge of the process, experimentation and/or materials that led to its creation, it remains mostly an odd piece of trash to the viewer. When the story about it unfolds, it gains depth, meaning and value. The art process is as much the art, as the piece itself, sometimes more so.

In design, the process is the by product of the end result. The end product is glory. Generally, completed design pieces are easier to visually understand without any explanation. Designers use many methods of process, programming & schematics to create the final design they intend. And more often than not, the final product is intuitively understandable. Take for example, a building, most people generally know where to enter or exit, they understand its inherent function (a home, a shopping center, an office, and so on), without explanation. The final designed object is the artwork, and the process was only a tool to bring it to life.

There are many crossovers, of course. Some designs don't make sense without understanding the process, and some artwork stands without any understanding of its creation. As the world moves forward I think the lines will blur more dramatically, but weather or not you know why a piece of designart exists, the story is always significant.

Don't squash your creativity because you don't fit into a stereotypical mold. You are the process, no piece of artdesign would exist without radical minds who didn't strive to create beauty (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci), or who didn't glorify the process (e.g. Thomas Edision). These artists were more than "artists". Be proud of what you do every day, the mundane, the experimentation, the finishing touches. Your story will be amazing!

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