Design versus Art

In his blog Up Against It Thomas Roth-Berghofer discusses his reading of The Laws of Simplicity by Medea. He quotes Medea:

“The best art makes your head spin with question. Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.”

I believe the path to the appreciation of Art and the path to the appreciation of Design is very simple.

Art’s path is Physical -> Logical -> Contextual -> Conceptual

Design’s (Good Design’s) path is Conceptual -> Contextual -> Logical -> Physical

I believe that communication is a continual cycle ascending and descending these complimentary paths between people.


Design versus Craft

I was following a thread on A List Apart when one respondent piped up and questioned the looseness of the definition of “design” on the web. He was quickly silenced. I had the same thing happen to me at designers talk for suggesting that most of the websites presented in the forum were mostly craft and actual design was being criticized for being unconventional.

Design and craft are clearly separate. Design is the planning of the artifact and craft is its development. Design has four perspectives: Conceptual, Contextual, Logical and Physical. Craft has four phases: Base Functionality, Advanced Functionality, Functional Trim and Transition.

In the world of websites the division between design and craft has been blurred because the person doing the planning is also doing the development. However, most websites are not designed. Design implies innovation and deviation from established conventions to create a new convention. Most websites are based solely on established conventions and never find their way out of the box. There are many web craftspersons, but few web designers. If we hearken back to Pareto we can say that twenty percent are designers producing eighty percent of the design and eighty percent are craftpersons producing twenty percent of the design.

So, I say to all the “web designers” out there, most of you are craftspeople with little design sense at all. It’s about as legitimate as Google calling its programmers “engineers” or Phil calling himself “doctor”. The terms have lost their weight.

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