Art or Design? Why Does It Matter?

Graphic design is inherently artistic. If you’ve ever tried your hand at it, you know it’s no kindergarten finger painting session and it actually takes a high-level of skill. Like any form of art, it can be very subjective. Today, we’re not going to get into the artsy fartsy side of graphic design. We’re giving you the business end of this art spiel.

While there are definitely subjective elements to graphic design, when you’re looking at it from a business standpoint, it’s incredibly important to remember that your designs (like a logo for example) are NOT a piece of art. Let’s rewind. We’re not saying that it can’t be this beautiful, magnificent work that you and your team have put heart and soul into. We’re just saying that as a business owner, if you avoid viewing your visual identity as “art”, you avoid the “subject to taste” dilemma.

There is an overarching way to think about this. Art is subjective, meaning it is influenced by personal tastes, feelings, opinions. Design, on the other hand, is objective. So it is not influenced by personal tastes, feelings and opinions.

Ok, but what does this all mean? Art is expressive. An artist’s goal is to express personal and subjective emotions, experiences and thoughts through a medium of their choice. While the goal of a piece of art is often to have some kind of effect (accomplish something, deliver a feeling or emotion like appreciation or shock), art doesn’t necessarily have to accomplish something nor is it a means to an end.

The purpose of design on the other hand is to solve a problem. Design is in some sense objective and “measurable”. What’s the measure? Well…is it working? Is it solving the problem? If a certain design piece (regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about it) is solving a problem – it’s working.

As a business owner it’s crucial to understand this distinction, because you might love your logotype but if it does not solve your problem, it’s not working. What’s that saying? If you love something, let it go? Yeah, that applies here.

In the creative fields we say “Kill your darlings.” (Thanks, William Faulkner). A designer does this over and over again…killing pieces they love that just aren’t solving the problem.

So, the lesson here is trust your designers. They want you to love every part of your visual identity, but know that there’s a system to how they work. The colors, shapes, sizes, placement they use…there is a method to the madness!

We want you to understand that yes, there are elements of art to graphic design, but they’re not, or shouldn’t be, void of strategy.

When a designer is developing your visual identity, do not think your visual identity is purely a subjective expression of their preferences and taste. There’s a system to how they work, and they’re focused on solving your problem. A good designer knows how to set their personal feelings aside, and a business owner needs to do the same.