Group23 | Artist vs. Designer – what’s the difference?
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Artist vs. Designer – what’s the difference?

G23 - Artist vs Designer

04 Jun Artist vs. Designer – what’s the difference?

There’s an inside joke that asks “what’s the difference between and artist and a designer?” Answer: “Designers get paid for what they do”

In some ways a better (although less pointed) answer might be “art is what you do for yourself and design is what you do for others”. We run across this all the time when evaluating potential Creatives (our term for those folks who can work magic with pixels) and sometimes have to explain the difference to them. How much harder is it to explain the same concept to potential (or existing) clients? True story: We had an existing client that was starting a new non-profit foundation and needed a logo to represent and symbolize its mission. The person in charge had mocked up a busy, unfocused attempt and was looking for input. Our creative director took a few hours to make some rough sketches and put together a rather nice response, including a small primer on the science (so to speak) of logo creation. A couple of days went by before we received a response from the stakeholder thanking us for our time, but he preferred his logo to any that we had come up with. No skin off our nose, although the last sentence in his email really set us back. “After all, I attended a Photoshop class last year and I don’t think it’s that hard“. Well shoot, if 15 years of experience can be replaced by a single class-we’re going about this all wrong. Heck, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (not really) last week and feel qualified to pick up a couple of scalpels on the way home from work. I’m not talking major surgery, but I’m pretty confident I perform a relatively minor procedure like remove my cat’s appendix or something. How hard could it be? If I get stuck, there’s always Wikipedia to help me finish things up.

What’s the difference? (And no, my cat doesn’t get a vote) Here’s one partial theory-(please feel free to add your own)
Weave all been doing “art” since we were 2 years old. Our parents praised our results, put things on the refrigerator with magnets and generally did all they could to build up our fragile self-esteem. We took pottery classes in college and although it wasn’t nearly as easy as it looked on TLC, every once in awhile we’d come up with something that looked pretty good. Would anyone pay us for anything we did? Not the point-we were pleased with what we’d done and that was enough-kind of like our would-be logo designer in the illustration above. With experiences/affirmations like these floating around in our subconscious, is it any wonder we think we can turn out good design work? Isn’t that the part of the problem – not seeing the difference between “art” and “design”?

Look, I think artists are great and am glad we’ve got a world full of ‘em. I just know that I don’t want Georges Seurat designing the website for my legal firm or the business collateral for my mortgage company. Those things are not for my edification, but for existing and future clients. They don’t give a whit about my personal taste, and just want to be able to identify/connect with my specific products and services. Good design does that, as it supports and amplifies what we’re trying to market rather than compete with it-and that’s not something you can learn in a 1 hour Photoshop class…

  • Aaron Sonnenberg
    Posted at 10:46h, 05 August

    Really good article Zeke. I just read a great quote “Business objectives are what separate designers from artists…Great design comes from a methodical thought process” Thanks for your article.

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