Design and Art

June 01, 2013

Blu Arch sells what we call “design.” But just exactly what does that mean? In this newsletter, we'll feature five items considered design pieces in the industry. 

Design is often compared to art, and two questions arise: What is the difference between art and design? Is design art or can it be?

“Art,” as the phrase is commonly used, is a creative piece fashioned from a medium chosen by the artist from which he/she hopes to express and evoke emotion and change, if ever so slightly, the way the viewer sees the world. A designer, on the other hand, is concerned with how the purchaser LIVES in the world.

An artist's creation is one-of-a-kind. Even if he makes three blue bowls, each one is handcrafted individually. An artwork's existence needs no justification other than itself, its aesthetic. If the piece happens to be a usable bowl or a vase, fine, but art is not a means to another end.

With design, function comes first. A design product is a reflection of the designer’s resolution of a problem from every day life. The solution is a piece that is nearly always machine-made. An example is the incomplete clock in this newsletter. It performs its function of telling time. Still, within this limitation, the designer uses his imagination perhaps as much as an artist does, in this case, however, not so much as to display another view of the world.  No, the designer needs to find imaginative ways of working with the parameters which the product’s function set.

Can design be art?

Chuck and I answer this question with a resounding YES!  The designer has many decisions to make and not all of them involve function.  Within the given parameters, what materials, what colors, what arrangement of parts, what shape and lines, what look---ethereal or cool or whimsical?   Think Apple, for instance.

Good design involves much creativity, it must be pleasing to the eye, is often quite clever.  Sometimes it is enjoyed as much or more for its creativity in looks as in the way it fulfills its function.

Whether design is art has been debated since the industrial revolution enabled people to make things other than by hand.  And it will continue to be strenuously debated as our technology rapidly changes.

Still, as Henry Ford famously said “Design IS Art.” 

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