courage can't see around corners but goes around them anyway. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Design vs Art

The Barbican’s talks and events consistently take on issues in the creative and design community in a way that bridges the preciousness of a museum and the grit of a design workshop. I’m particularly looking forward to this upcoming talk as part of the Ron Arad Restless show in the gallery, for which I’ve written a post on Core77.

According to the programme, the purpose of the event next month is “to explore the implications of the intertwined markets for art and design. How and why has the distinction between these disciplines eroded in recent years? Has ‘good design for all’ become exclusive design for the few?”

Maybe it’s because I started design school in 2000 that this topic sounds like repetition of every chat I have with designers over drinks for the last decade. Or maybe it’s just me. The Design vs Art vs Craft debate lives on. Still. We haven’t moved on. Still struggling to define what we’re doing and give it meaning. Does every artifact have to fit into a tidy box with a label on it so we can justify its existence and judge its worthiness in the world? Yes, as I wrote earlier, designing a fancy new gadget for the MoMA Design Store probably won’t have much impact on the lives of the masses. It might win a design award for looking cool or being clever, though.

The core of the issue isn’t the tension or grey area between art and design. What I expect to come out of the conversation is the real issue of function and value in design. That goes back to the brief. Design with intention. Deliberate design. This is yet another case where language and semantics hold high importance in understanding and valuing work. The only reason this old conversation is still kicking around is because the word “design” carried with it a certain cache that sounds exclusive to many and narrows the scope of designed products and services to those that have the adjective “designer” in front of them. Therein lies the root of the exclusivity of design. Do we really need to keep talking about this?

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