Art vs Design – Understanding the difference and implications on your job


© Courtesy of Bonhams

In 2019 something rather remarkable happened: For the first time, a car was recognized by an Italian court as a “work of art” – it was the beloved Ferrari 250 GTO.

When you get to speak to a lot of experience transportation or automotive designers as I have to pleasure to do day in, day out, the reaction to this news was often “that’s indeed what we do, we create art”.

In today’s fast-moving, commercial and capitalistic culture, the old motto of “form follows function” is becoming increasingly more important as it lays the way to a fast process of product development. Taking the time to make a product beautiful takes time – and time is something that a lot of companies simply do not have. They want to make money – quickly.

How do we make money? By selling an aesthetically appealing product. This can be physical, digital or a service product but they all have one thing in common (on most cases): They are bought because of some kind of emotional connection with a combination of usage and personal need. This “sell” can happen either internally at a company or externally to client or end customer.

So when you are a Designer, your main job is to work on something for a specific customer group that has been identified to sell it to this specific group of people.

This creative process is led by grander structures that have an effect on your work – schedules, start of production, budgets, manpower etc. all effect your job. The more you understand these implications and have the ability to work and collaborate with them, the “better” your product will be in the end.

One Executive Design Manager mentioned some very interesting to me that I will not forget: “I prefer the German word “gestalten”. It means we give a form to something – no matter what it might be. It also comes with a connotation to do something in a group or with a team – it can’t be done alone”. The longer I work within the creative area, the more I understand what he meant.

I have come across a lot of some incredible creative people that have often times mentioned to me – “the industry is not creative at all, it’s only about creating a product. My love lies in art”.

It does not mean that the process of creating a product is not creatively demanding at all. It means that the creativity of individuals are used in the way a company sees to achieve the goals it has set itself.

Art does not give you these restrictions. Restrictions in design are external, restrictions in art internal. They are set by every artist themselves – the control fully lies with the artist and is not interfered with from outside factors.

It does not mean that both art and design cannot mix. However, it is a fundamental piece of information that every young designers needs to understand and accept – it will not only make you a better designer but also a better artist.


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