The Difference Between Art and Design

I read the other day a comparison of art and design. There are definitive shared characteristics, from their creative nature to relying upon the visual senses for interpretation. Both entertain. Both connect with their audience. But the author, John O’Nolan, worked very hard to point out their differences. Art inspires and is interpreted, while good design motivates and needs to be understood in a universal way. Makes sense.

Still, I wonder a bit about his contention that art is the result of talent, i.e. “natural ability,” while design is a skill that is simply taught and learned. I think each is a combination of both. Da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa the first time he picked up a brush. He perfected his skills according to his natural abilities. And the great designers of today’s visual communications certainly have perfected their skills – but they couldn’t succeed without talent.

Artist or designer, blank canvas or paper, talent or skill – it all must be drawn from within.

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