Monday, February 7, 2011

Differences Between "Art" and "Design"

I am often reproached for making a distinction between "art" and "design" by those who believe there is no useful or accurate distinction to be made. To get a clearer sense of why I believe it is important to stop pretending that there is not a distinction made in the real world, I recommend the writings of Olivia Gude and jan jagodzinski. The book, "Visual Art and Education in an Era of Designer Capitalism" (right) by jan jagodzinski (left) examines the difference between art and design in great detail.

Jagodzinski articulates the important understanding that the role of art in society is to promote free experimentation. The role of art is to maintain the spirit and soul of the nation framed outside the use-value of the marketplace economy. To do this it is often necessary to disturb or challenge the capitalist consumption model prevalent in society.

Jadodzinski contrasts this role of art with that of what he refers to as "designer capitalism". He provides extensive examples from history, philosophy and psychoanalysis that show the role of art today is resisting the capitalist consumption associated with the enterprise of design. He documents the understanding that art's 'asociality' exposes its fundamental antagonism within the capitalist enterprise.

Free experimentation outside the set criteria of the systematically constructed, established order is extremely important in art as well as in pure science, pure mathematics and every other area of intellectual pursuit. "Creativity" that does not surprise, challenge, and disrupt is pseudo-creativity. The only measure of activist art is whether the policing agency becomes upset or threatened. That's why designers use the term "innovation" to distinguish what they do from what artists do.

While this site argues for the role of "Design" and "Visual Communication" in a complete visual education, this does not deny the importance of also maintaining the true role of "Art" as free experimentation and self-exploration outside the set criteria of the established order. We maintain that it is important to understand the rich diversity of the various domains of visualization and to openly accept their differences in order to understand and accurately convey their roles.

Call the teaching of modernist, Bauhaus-style, elements and principles by the term "Visual Communication" education rather than claiming to teach the "elements of art" and the "principles of design". Call visual forms that strive to maintain traditional culture and celebrate popular sensibilities by the term "Visual Culture" to differentiate it from it's more disruptive cousin "Art". Open the doors and windows of "Visual Literacy" so that we can finally really teach "Art" openly and accurately, as well as its cousins "Design", "Visual Culture" and "Visual Communication."

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