Difference Between Art And Design

Difference Between Art And Design image

Art and design have a lot in common, but they are both distinct disciplines. Many times their meanings are confused and their identities mistaken, but their distinctions stand. Historically, art and design have always blended in visual creativity and production, while many artists identified as designers and vice versa.

To avoid unnecessary ambiguity, we can correctly state, a piece of work qualifies to be either a work of design or a piece of art by the process and purpose of its creation. The clear distinctions between the two disciplines can be better explored by answering the questions;

What Is Art?

Art is human expression in its primary form. It could be realistic or fictitious. It could represent something that beats human imagination itself or captures an episode or scene in life. It is a physical work with certain aesthetic or intellectual intents. Its purpose could be personal expression, commentary, excitement elicitation etc.

What Is Design?

Design is a problem solving process. It is bound by constraints like target audience, functionality, typography, layout, dimension and colour. Design gives order to objectives and ideas through conception and solves practical problems by physical implementation. However, artistic creativity often features in the design process.

From the above broad definitions, the following cutting differences between art and design can be deduced.

Art And Design, Difference In Constraints

Where the constraints of a work lie is a major difference in art and design. In art, the artist sets his/her own constraints. The artist defines his interests, emotions and inspirations that guide what to express in his or her work. The constraints are self-imposed. On the other hand, a design adheres to solid set external constraints like function of product, regulations like materials quality, standards like dimensions and capacity, criteria, research etc.

Critical Design The Impact Of Social And Environmental Trends image
Critical Design The Impact Of Social And Environmental Trends

Difference In Purpose Of Work

The drive behind the creation of a piece of work differs in art from that in design. "Art is derived from our external and internal experiences. Art is a projection of what you experience, how you view the world and what you want to vocalize. Design on the other hand, is taking a problem and finding solutions for it, and art is merely a tool in a designer’s mindset.”—Maria Khan

Difference In Value

The value of a piece of art is entirely in the expression of the artist. It only attains a commercial value when sold out, usually for decorative purpose or for museums. On the other hand, design influences diverse domains of society and always have a commercial purpose.

Design and art however do overlap heavily. Sometimes the line between art and design is completely blurred. E.g. in applied arts like fashion design and interior décor are considered design as well as art. The commissioning of a work also determines on which of the two categories to fall. When an artist uses a certain font or typeface (which is a work of design) in a curving or painting, his/her final work is a product of both design and art.


Some designers consider themselves artists because like artists, they often create visually attractive things that people can admire and pride on. While this is true, when such a creation bears any other purpose other than the aesthetics, it no longer qualifies to be a work of art.

Art and design do overlap in many levels, and can be hazy sometimes. However, in many cases the identification of any work as either art or design depends heavily on perspective rather than clear-cut features in form.