What are the difference between art and design? What does an artist do? What does a designer do? Does he or she make books, bridges, websites, clothes, or sandwiches? Let’s shed some light on the design profession and how it differs from art activities.

The answer to the question of what the profession of design means is often not known even by those who are familiar with art and design. However, these fields have their own nuances. We have highlighted 6 key differences between the work of an artist and a designer.

The final product

In general, both artists and designers work to create a visual product. However, artists create visually appealing things as the end result of their work for users. The drawing or illustration conveys the artist’s final vision of the idea. This makes an illustration in a book, a canvas in a gallery, a framed work that hangs on a wall, or a mural, all of which are the end product of consumption.

For designers, creating a beautiful picture is a form of communication that is just one small step in the process of preparing a product. Designers use rendering, sketching, modeling, and other ways to share ideas with a whole team of people who are working to create a usable finished product. It could be a video game, a movie, a lawnmower, a laptop, a backpack, or a piece of furniture. Initial sketches, renderings, and mock-ups are not intended for consumer eyes and only serve to illustrate design decisions to those who help bring them to life.

Problem Solving

In most cases, the problem artists solve is an idea they want to share with others. They create artwork and their problem is solved. Designers face difficulties with their clients that they have to solve.

For example, a company wants to increase sales of a product they have been making for years. What does the designer do? His job turns into solving a few small issues. They have to lead him to a conclusion that will help convince potential customers that the new product is better than the one they already own.

To do this, the designer can go in several directions: refresh the design, improve ergonomics, apply a new production method to reduce cost, or add a new feature. In the end, a modern product becomes more user-friendly and costs less than the previous one. In this way, designers solve customer and consumer problems.

difference between art and design

Skill Level

Craftsmanship is a term that describes the skills that are used in creating a product. Artists are skilled craftsmen because without a high level of skill, their work will be no different from that of a beginner. Usually, an artist’s skill grows over time and therefore, the value of the work they create increases. A designer’s skill consists in communicating and solving design problems quickly and elegantly. Designers are not required to have the same high level of skill as artists to sell their ideas. The higher a designer’s skill level, the more valuable he is as a specialist. However, his or her work does not become much more expensive.

Interaction with Consumers

People’s interaction with artists’ work is passive and visual. Unless it is an installation or sculpture, the interaction is very minimal. In the case of design, contact is the most important part of it. Most designers develop solutions to common problems, creating products that consumers often encounter. Furniture, tools, electronics, kitchen utensils, or a car are all designed with the end consumer in mind.

Functional product design

What is the purpose of works of art? They are used for visual stimulation, as decoration, or to illustrate some kind of story. The products that designers make must be functional in order to be successful. “Functional design” is a term that means the product serves a specific purpose.

If the prettiest bottle opener is high-tech designed with ultra-lightweight carbon fiber, that doesn’t mean it’s functional. Such material may not last long or be sharpened enough to open a can. And if such a product is also 100 times more expensive than a handy can opener, it will be impossible to sell it as a consumer product.

In that case, instead of being a functional product, the carbon fiber can opener would be considered a work of art rather than serving its intended purpose. It would most likely not go into mass production. This leads us to the final distinction between art and design.

The production of a piece

A work of art is usually created to be sold in its original form for money that matches the amount of effort and hours put into it. Design is developed with the idea of mass production in mind. A consumer product, an app, a graphic, or an interior detail, it doesn’t matter what it is. The number of copies of a product determines the features of the design.

The more complex the product design, the more important it is to think about optimal design. For example, automation of production processes must reduce labor costs. Designers try to reduce production costs and consider the life cycle of a product (from concept to use and disposal). In doing so, they integrate these features, making the product more consumer-friendly and environmentally friendly.

Hopefully, the distinction between art and design has now become more apparent. They are not interchangeable; they serve different purposes. However, they are both important and require a lot of effort and energy to master.