I’m not an artist. I’m a designer.
Design is science. It’s theory. It’s measurement. It’s analytical. It is the practice of knowledge. Like any other science, real design can be measured in terms of its usability, its ability and efficacy in communicating, solving problems, attaining goals, and so forth. Its success can be determined based on whether or not it “works.”
Art, on the other hand, is all kinds of stuff. Yeah, it’s sometimes all the things design is, but sometimes it’s none of those things. Sometimes it’s less the practice of knowledge, and more the pursuit of knowledge. Art can be whatever anyone wants it to be. Unlike design, it doesn’t have to “work,” it just has to exist.
On some level, I think I’ve always been a designer. I was raised to question basically everything, and was encouraged by the people I respected to feel empowered to redress anything I felt could be better. I was also encouraged to be creative in how I sought to make things better. Art and design frequently meet at this junction of creativity. As disciplines, they both inherently share this common root, which leads the two to be consistently mistaken for each other.
I’m not an artist, though. While I’ve done stuff that I’ve considered “art” from time to time, I don’t think I’ve been an artist in any traditional sense, since I was a child. As an adult, I have a hard time making or creating something for the pleasure of it. Typically, there has to be a goal, a deadline, a problem, and an expected outcome for me to feel right about spending time making something. Perhaps I haven’t found a traditional medium I can be happy with using as an artist. Design has been something I’ve kind of naturally taken to. I’m most educated in graphic design, compared to other design disciplines, but I can usually get my head around any practice with similar rules or guidelines.
I like finding a way that works. I like receiving criticism and I like defending against it. I like providing rationale as to why my solution works. I’m usually pretty excited by these nerdy tasks that doing design work requires, but there’s sometimes a feeling that I should just go do some organic, art for art’s sake thing. Sometimes I do, but it’s usually just to keep my brain moving, and more often than not, I see it as an exercise to maintain the creativity necessary to be a good designer, rather than an activity I’m doing for my own inner peace or whatever.
Artists that work in strategic and measured ways are likely to be considered designers. The artists that can sit down and purposefully make a “sad” painting, or a “happy” sculpture, have studied the human condition enough to make deliberate decisions to elicit a response from—or express an emotion to—their audience.
Maybe emotional content and scientific study are too intertwined—as they exist in creative endeavor—for the practician to really ever wholly be one or the other, artist or designer. Maybe it’s a scale that swings with each project, or study, or piece. I don’t know, but it continues to interest me, and I’m forever trying to better understand how and why I understand the things around me. I’m not interested in reacting to those things, or interpreting them in my own special way; that’s an artist’s job. Instead, I’m interested in presenting them in the best, most efficient, and understandable way possible. But, like I said, I’m not an artist. I’m a designer.