Art vs. design

by Elisa del Galdo on 25 June 2009

I recently attended a symposium where the objective was to explore the use of typical Human Computer Interaction evaluation methods for the assessment of creative work. Basically, they wanted to understand how best to evaluate art and design from the viewers' perspective. I thought it was interesting how the disciplines of art and design were grouped together, with the latter, in my opinion, only requiring any serious consideration for evaluation.

Art is simply evaluated by the beholder (and I suppose the critic as well). Either it is liked and appreciated, or it is not. The artist is usually using some medium to express their views or interpretation of many things including an image, event, or emotion. The user, viewer, or the person who experiences the art does not have (in most cases) the opportunity to provide feedback that would affect the result.

Design, has a greater responsibility. Unlike art, it usually has a purpose beyond expression and is used in some way (there is an identifiable receiver or user), and therefore can be evaluated based on that premise. Design also has a whole host of challenges that art does not have. Firstly, designers usually have to work to a brief or framework that can limit their creativity. These could be constraints as a result of the target audience, size of a product, limitations in technology or user interface structure. They also will, more than likely, have to work collaboratively with a team made up of people from a variety of disciplines, all with a contribution to the final outcome.

As a result of this, they will have to adjust their designs based on stakeholder requirements and user evaluations, and still produce something creative within what may be very constrained boundaries. Alternatively, the artist, although partial to public praise, needs only to please themselves.

The artist would lose much by having to submit to an iterative process of third party evaluation and re-design – Essentially this type of evaluation needs to come from within. The artist looks inward and creates, where as the designer must look outward and create – Potentially a much more difficult task.

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