Art vs Design

Art and design are two of the most popular forms of visual communication. They are so closely linked that it’s common to wonder, even within the creative communities, is design art? or is art design?

In this article, we will understand if art and design the same thing, and if not, what makes them different? It’s a hotly debated question, so we’ll discuss the commonalities and differences between art and design and why they are not considered one and the same.

david kracov sculpture art vs design

What Is Art?

Art is commonly defined as the expression and application of creative skill and imagination. There are seven common forms of art, but we refer specifically to the creative visual arts, such as painting, photography, or sculpture, when comparing art to design. 

calman shemi painting art vs design

The purpose of producing these artworks is to create something that we can appreciate primarily for its beauty or emotional impact. Artists aim to create something that expresses their vision, ideas, or feelings. 

Art uses creativity combined with technical proficiency to translate beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas into a visual format. The definition of art is broad and widely debated; it is also inherently inclusive. 

Art appreciation and interpretation can be highly subjective, and what one person considers art may not be perceived by someone else the same way. There is rarely an agreed definition of what constitutes art, and the perception of what art includes has changed over time.

What Is Design?

Design is defined as a plan or specification for creating an object, system, activity, or process. The design process aims to produce either a plan, prototype, product, or process. Users are always central to the design process. Designs strive to create solutions for people, systems, or physical items. 

david kracov dorit levinstein shadow box sculpture art vs design

Design plays a part in almost every element of our daily lives. Design is observed in fashion, interiors, products, video games, software interfaces, branding, animation, publishing, advertising, and many more industries.

Design is practical and doesn’t focus purely on aesthetics. Design is not about adding ornaments to an item. Even with striking fashion or interior design, a product must first and foremost be practical and functional. Unlike art, designers must put the end user’s needs before their desires.

Designers can – and do – express feelings and ideas through their designs, but self-expression is not the prime objective of a good design. A designer’s artistic skills and creativity are still essential, but creating a practical item, tool or experience is the top priority. 

What Is the Difference Between Art and Design?

There are many commonalities between art and design, but there are also many differences. Overall, one of the main differences between these two disciplines is that design is more creatively restrained. 

Artists can usually look at their artwork and see it as a form of self-expression or even as an extension of themselves. Designers don’t have the same liberty for self-expression and are far more confined to meeting the end-user requirements. 

Differences Between Art and Design

  • Designers always work from a brief with specific requirements. Artists can work on commissions, but they usually have more creative freedom of expression.
  • Design always needs functionality, while art only has to exist.
  • Designs have to solve problems, while art should provoke thought and emotions.
  • Designers work methodically with a data-driven or mathematical process, while artists work intuitively using their instinct.
  • Art is perceptual, while a design is rational.
  • Designs are created for others; art is for oneself.
  • Artistic ability is perceived to be foremost a natural gift, while design skills can be taught and honed.
  • Designers must compromise their vision if it conflicts with commercial aims and goals, while artists do not have to make such concessions.
  • Design always has a purpose, while art can serve any purpose the artist chooses, no purpose at all, or a vague or interpretative purpose.
  • Art is unconstrained, but a design has many constraints, such as clients, business goals, and user needs.

amy gold painting interior art vs design

What Are the Similarities Between Art and Design?

Some creatives will argue design is a type of art. Others will take the position that although art and design intersect, they are distinctly different creative fields. Whatever your opinion, there are certain similarities or commonalities between art and design.

Similarities Between Art and Design:

  • Design and art share the same fundamental creative visual principles: Shape, color, line, contrast, balance, rhythm, etc.
  • Both designers and artists study artistic methods such as drawing, painting, or sculpting to develop their creative abilities.
  • Both designs and artworks can be visually attractive. Both art and some forms of design can be worthy of hanging on a wall or displaying for people to admire.
  • Designs and artworks can both be used to tell stories. However, expressing emotions and telling stories is the primary purpose of art, but for designers, storytelling is merely a tool to help achieve a specific goal.

What Is the Relationship Between Art and Design?

The relationship between art and design is close, with boundaries that are ever-changing and often blurred. Throughout history, art has influenced design, and sometimes design has influenced art. Modern and contemporary art, in particular, can be closely linked to design trends. 

Modern art movements like Pop Art were heavily influenced by design disciplines such as advertising, publishing, and product design. Some fine artists like Andy Warhol took the product designs of everyday items like Campbell’s Soup and printed them on canvas to create artworks. Roy Lichtenstein took inspiration from comic book designers and used their techniques to create fine art paintings

Several Pop Art artists started their careers in commercial design. As they moved into fine art they took publishing and commercial printing techniques and used the same techniques to create paintings. Other Pop Art artists took actual cuttings from magazine and newspaper graphic designs and turned them into mixed media collages. 


Artists and designers interact frequently, and design certainly plays a role in the creation of many artworks. Fashion photographers like Helmet Newton or Cecil Beaton capture the designs of fashion designers and create pictures that are then considered artworks. Contemporary artists like Alec Monopoly take elements of popular design culture, such as animated characters, and reinterpret them as fine art.

Some artists, like Fred Allard, or Claes Oldenberg take a commercial product or fashion design and use it as inspiration for the creation of fine art sculpture. With the lines increasingly blurred, it’s understandable that some designers consider their work to be art. 

What Is the Difference Between Fine Art and Design?

Fine art, also known as “high art,” is a creative work made purely for enjoyment and display. Design is considered one of the “low arts” that serve a purpose and have a function. Traditionally, fine art was created to be appreciated for its aesthetic beauty. Art is historically enjoyed, collected, and displayed by those with the most cultivated taste, often of the highest class, education, or financial means. 


paintings art vs design

The low arts, including design, decorative arts and crafts, is created for the masses. It is accessible and easily comprehended. It has comparatively lower barriers of entry to enjoy, and can be affordable and available to a wide range of users. 

Art Vs. Graphic Design

Graphic design is a type of design that can be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing but is not a type of art. Graphic design relies on the methodologies of design to craft clear visual messages and solve problems. 

Art and graphic design share many similarities. Both art and graphic design involve image-making, but the end results serve different purposes and are perceived differently. Graphic designers make commercial designs, so they fall into the category of design, not art, by common definition.

Enjoying Art and Design

Art and design work closely together, and you can enjoy both design and art in your everyday life. You may buy and display designs or relish in the creative expertise of fashion or interior design. You can also buy online art for sale and display it in your home alongside design creations or “low arts,” such as beautiful frames or exquisite furniture.


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