What is the difference between design and art?

 In recent years, the terms design and art have become widely used and heard in diverse settings.

The term "design city" refers to cities that have been recognized by UNESCO in the design category. Another example is "regional art," which takes place in local communities. We often hear the term but don't really know the difference. ...... For those who are not familiar with the difference between design and art, we would like to introduce the difference between them.

At first glance, art and design appear to be in similar domains, but in fact there is a big difference in purpose and starting point.


Design for Profit

First, let's look at the etymology and definition of the word design, which is relatively easy to imagine.

The word "design" is derived from the Latin "Designare," meaning to express a plan in symbols.

According to Kojien, design is "a comprehensive formative planning that examines and coordinates various elements of a product, such as material, function, and aesthetic formability, as well as various requirements from the viewpoints of technology, production, and consumption.

Furthermore, the official website of the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP), which is the originator of the Good Design Awards, states, "Always think with the human being at the center, find a purpose, and make a plan to achieve that purpose and realize it. This series of processes is what we think of as design.

You can see that all of them indicate a plan for the purpose. In other words, design indicates a method or procedure toward one's purpose.

We have captured design in a broad sense, but this is still vague. To delve deeper into the meaning of design, we need to look at the context in which design has developed.


Design and Economy

It is believed that design has grown along with the development of the market economy. Especially in Japan, the meaning of the term began to take root after the period of high economic growth. As mentioned above, design, as a method toward a goal, had become a cog in the wheel of production consumption and demand supply.

Since the 1980s, Japan, which was built on production-based consumption, has shifted to consumption-based production. This has led companies to focus on the value that consumers perceive through their products.

One key to this was design.

Sophisticated design creates added value that makes consumers want to pick up the product. Not only that, but design is deeply related to the comfort of use that consumers seek. Design focused on consumer issues and generated ideas of intrinsic value.

Against this backdrop, from the 1980s onward, more emphasis was placed on the characteristics of design: (1) methods directed toward a goal, and (2) procedures for generating ideas from existing problems.


Art that inspires

Next, let us look at the definition of art.

Art NPOs, which use the power of art to create a prosperous civil society, refer to art as "a social entity with the power to create diverse values and move society.

In addition, "Introduction to Art Production" (Sakai, 2017), which explains the fusion of art management and art, sees art as "something that has all kinds of value that moves people.

You can see that both of these authors see art as something that gives value to the recipient. Whereas design was intended to solve consumer problems, art is intended to give the recipient value that does not yet exist.

Art is still very vague, but like design, it becomes clearer as we delve deeper into its historical background.


Transformation of Artistic Value

Art museums are inseparable from art.

The museum's beginnings were an extension of the national policy of "public" that emerged after World War II. However, the focus at the time was on the performing arts, such as television, cartoons, and music. As a result, art, which was part of the national policy, was considered something enjoyed by the upper class and became distant from society.

This situation was drastically changed by the 1970 Japan World Exposition, known as the Osaka Expo.

The Japan Association for the 1970 World Exposition (hereinafter referred to as "Expo Association") selected Taro Okamoto as the exhibition producer. Okamoto was in charge of everything from planning to exhibition creation, and proposed a complex of three exhibitions in one theme pavilion. Okamoto's goal was to express a view of the universe in which each exhibit was independent of the others, yet interacted with each other.

This forward-thinking concept has captured the interest of people who were previously distant from art, and has had an impact on the more than 64 million visitors to the museum.

What I would like to draw attention to here is the attitude of the artist, Okamoto.

In this Osaka Expo, Okamoto did not change his art to meet the demands of the Expo Association. He pursued the art he wanted to express. On the other hand, the Expo Association, which plays the role of management, respects the artistic value that Okamoto creates, while setting up a place for his works to be delivered to visitors.

This sequence of events shows that art involves the interaction of three elements: the artist (Taro Okamoto), the management (the Expo Association), and the audience (the visitors).

At the Osaka Expo, while retaining Okamoto's artistic values, the Expo Association set up a place for the works to be shown to the public, creating a flow of visitors who converted them into their own values. Furthermore, by not taking the viewer or management as the starting point for ideas, but rather the artist's conception, the Expo created works that transcended the framework of consumption, which is different from design.



These are the differences between art and design. Design focuses on consumer issues and provides product value. Art, on the other hand, centers on the artist's ideas and provides new value to the viewer.

I think these will help us to see what kind of position the artwork or exhibit is in.

Yuka Shimoji

After graduating from an art college in Kyoto, he began working as a consultant and freelance writer. Utilizing his own background, he writes articles mainly on arts and business-related topics. He also writes lyrics and scripts for a wide range of other projects.