The difference between art and design

Alex Trochut explores the languages of art and design to discover how they're different.

Art vs design

How do art and design differ?

Like many creatives, I often find myself debating the perpetual question of whether design can be art. I'm going to use this opportunity to say that I don't think that design is art.

I see art and design as two different languages. However, I think designers can speak 'art language' (make art), and artists can speak 'design language' (do design).

There is no context that can define
a clear border between the two, and there are certainly many areas of intersection. Methodology and techniques don't establish the limits of one or the other either.

More than the piece itself or where it is placed, what really draws the line between art and design for me is the intention behind the creative act.

Alex Trochut

Alex is an artist, designer, illustrator and typographer

If we think about art and design as different languages and look at the vocabulary of each, design is very limited compared to art. It focuses more on how to express its limited, well-being-focused vocabulary (beauty, success, happiness) in new ways.

Art, meanwhile, sets out to discover which ideas need to be expressed. There are no limits or taboo, and its subject matter doesn't even need to have a specific meaning.

I'm not claiming any of the following propositions to be more than subjective statements, but they do help me to understand what I'm doing when I'm trying to do one thing or the other.

Design vs Art

  • Design is solving a problem. Art is raising a question.
  • Design is conclusive. Art is an open debate.
  • Design is being an actor and following a script. Art is writing and interpreting your own story.
  • Design is the mind looking for solutions. Art is the voice of the soul.
  • Design needs a collective acceptance. Art only needs an inner approval.
  • Design is an act of empathy. Art is an act of freedom.

This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 252.


Barcelona-born, Brooklyn-based artist, graphic designer, illustrator and typographer Alex Trochut ranked fourth in our poll of the 20 most influential designers of the last 20 years. He's won a devoted fan base thanks to his unique brand of illustrated typography and geometric flair.