The term “art” should speak all for itself: inspired, inspiring, emotional. Before creating any work of art, one must have a plan as far as what they will create and how. However, their idea usually generates from something emotional that has provoked them to create an outlet for that emotion. The end result often makes the viewer feel something. Here are a few examples of graphic art:
Got the idea? Good. Let’s move on.
Graphic design is solving visual communication problems. Making something look good is a by-product of design, where the real purpose lies in visually communicating with an audience to cause them to do something. True designers don’t just arrange elements on a page to make them “look good”, they arrange them according to the natural reading sequences of the human eye so that the information can be digested most easily.
I have talked with too many people that have said that the last “designer” they used for their website or print project did not solve their visual communication problems. Example: one “designer” ignored the target audience completely in a website “design”. You might as well use a template! (Templates are another pet peeve of mine, as they cannot solve problems.) If a website isn’t speaking directly to the target audience, then it is an enormous waste of money. If the design says “corporate”, brides will not spend more time on the site than it takes to click the “back” button on the browser.
Here are some examples of design:
I threw that last one in there to illustrate that design should break beyond barriers of language and culture. I don’t speak Russian, but I can tell exactly what the purpose of this site is. Can you?
With “graphic” being used in both descriptions, and graphics being used in all examples to some extent, it is clear that there are certain similarities between the two practices. Great design uses emotion to generate action. Any art that has ever made the history books has generated emotion. Graphic art might even use words to further enhance that emotion. Many designers are also artists, and many use graphic art to enhance their designs.
There is truly only one main difference between these two practices: the purpose. Design uses emotion as a means, while art uses emotion as an end. The purpose of design is to solve problems; the purpose of art is to express [problems]. Design reaches beyond the eyes and hearts of the viewer or user, it reaches into the mind to make them think. With any luck, that thought causes the viewer/user to do something about what they are thinking.
Another difference is that design consciously uses a plan or strategy for the creation of all work. There is a certain science involved in creating visual communications. A science behind what colors to use, and that is why to use certain colors versus others. A science behind where to place information on a page, which should be based on natural reading sequences of the human eye.
It is not acceptable to use these terms interchangeably, just as it is not acceptable to use “basketball player” and “football player” interchangeably. Yes, they both use a ball in their game, but each game is completely different. Some rules are still the same in each, but the overall goal separates the likeness immensely. Have respect for what each profession does, and show that respect by understanding them enough to refer to them correctly. And, if you are a “designer” promoting templates or “designs” that are not solving problems, reevaluate your purpose in life and consider a change in how you refer to yourself.