Thoughts on the borders between art and design, from “Design and Art” Ed. Alex Coles, Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press, 2007

“The interface between art and design is by no means a new subject. Within Modernism it has its roots in the late nineteenth century in writings of the British critic John Ruskin and the artist and designer William Morris, and in the twentieth century, early avant-garde movements such as Soviet Constructivism, De Stijl in the Netherlands and the Bauhaus at Dessau. In different ways , they responded to the technological and political implications of industrialisation by fostering new relationships between the autonomous sphere of art and the mass-produced culture of industrial design. The result was a new form of practice wherein traditional boundaries between disciplines were renegotiated.”
p10, Alex Coles, Beyond Designart

“Once an artist decides on a goal to pursue his or her creative process looks very much like a design process. Artists have effectively turned their self-made challenge into a partly determined design problem. And the temporarily turn themselves into designers. So the border between art and design is permeable, and not just from art towards design.”
p12, Alex Coles, Beyond Designart, Kees Dorst quoted

– This process is very interesting to me. As a commercial designer I am used to working from a brief that is given by a client, so I am very much concerned with solving their issues rather than exploring my own questions. But in my personal art practice I still create a brief for myself even in as much as I start out with an idea, a question or a goal. I very rarely start working with no ‘plan of attack’ when creating art, so in that sense I am creating my own ‘brief’ and ‘process’ that is not dissimilar to that used when creating a design piece.

“No design can exist in isolation. It is always related, sometimes in very complex ways, to an entire constellation of influencing situations and attitudes. What we call a good design is one which achieves integrity – that is, unity or wholeness – in balanced relation to its environment.”
p19, George Nelson, Good Design: What is it for, 1957

“The purpose of good design is to ornament existence, not to substitute for it.”
p 22, George Nelson, Good Design: What is it for, 1957

“The words design, machine, technology, are and art are closely related to one another, one term being unthinkable without the others, and they all derive from the same existential view of the world. However, this internal connection has been denied for centuries (at least since the Renaissance). Modern bourgeois culture made a sharp division between the world of art and that of technology and machines; hence culture was s[plit into two mutually exclusive branches: one scientific, quantifiable and ‘hard’, the other aesthetic, evaluative and ‘soft’. This unfortunate split started to become irreversible towards the end of the nineteenth century. In the gap the word design formed a bridge between the two. It could do this since it is an expression of the internal connection between art and technology. Hence in contemporary life, design more or less indicates the site where art and technology (along with their respective evaluative and scientific ways of thinking) come together as equals, making a new form of culture possible.”
p56, Vilén Flusser, About the Word Design, 1993

“Design is becoming more elaborately layered, more spectacular, more pervasive in our lives. Design, rather than art, is foremost now in embodying the visual spirit of the age. Millions get by without going anywhere near an art gallery, but everyone is touched in some way by design. Perhaps what we are seeing in the inexorable rise of design is the gradual reunification of art, in the pre-modernist, ‘decorative’ sense, and everyday life.”
p99, Rick Poynor, Art’s Little Brother, 2005


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