What's the difference between art and design?

Text that reads: The one big difference between art & design
Image: @morejanda

Never let it be said that we don't cover life's big questions here on Creative Bloq. As long as a philosophical head-scratcher is connected to art and design, we're quite happy to look into it. As it happens, art and design are the subject of a bold claim posted on Reddit recently, which attempts to single out the one big difference between the two disciplines.

Posted in our new favourite haunt, r/Design, this statement by author and creative agency veteran Michael Janda has got creatives from all walks of life debating in the comments. As Janda puts it, the main difference between artists and designers is that artists create for an audience of one, while designers create for an audience of many. If this is all sounding a bit too deep, maybe a quick look at why you should embrace design thinking will bring you up to speed.

Janda, whose published works include Burn Your Portfolio, expands on his ideas by saying that artists continue to work on a piece until they themselves satisfied. Meanwhile designers have to keep a target customer in mind throughout the creative process.

Text post that explains the supposed difference between art and design

Agree? Image: @morejanda

It's a strong theory. But is it right? That's what Reddit users have been thrashing out in one of the most articulate and nuanced comment sections we've ever been lucky enough to read. YouTube users could learn from their example, just saying.

It all comes down to linguistics. Which makes sense, seeing as this is a text post. Some commenters were quick to demand a distinction between 'fine' artists and, well, other artists. At the same time, user kloden112 demanded that Janda "[f]irst define design." The answer, according to Reddit userlowercase_j, is "[a]rt with purpose".

Creators are understandably precious about their work

As you can see, there are plenty of caveats to take into account. Creators are understandably precious about their work and whether or not it's classed as 'art' or 'design'. Chuck money and legitimacy into the mix, and you've got a lot of egos to tiptoe around.

Janda's claim also neatly skirts over the idea of commissioning. Sculptors, illustrators and animators can all be called upon to create their work for a fee or 'target customer'. Does this detract from their artistry? Similarly, designers can have the freedom to produce a functional piece of work that does so in the creator's own unique way.

We think it's important to keep in mind that few things are ever as clean-cut as this claim makes out. Both artists and designers obviously have self satisfaction in their work. And in terms of purpose versus aesthetic, artists value communication like designers. But perhaps they both express themselves in different ways.

Related articles:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.