Scott Berkun wrote a post a few weeks ago, ” Why you are not an artist”, about the differences between designers and artists. Its both on and off point for me, but it also blows my mind a bit, because I’ve always identified as an artist, even though I design as a profession. Scott says:
“But if you work for clients/bosses in the making of things that you yourself would not consider art, or are beneath your own standard, or that you blame others you work with for ruining, you are not an Artist. You are an employee. You are being paid to give someone else authority over your creative decisions. This can involve inspiration, effort, sacrifice, passion, brilliance, and many other noble things, but it’s not the same as being an Artist.”
And he’s kind of right. I think one of the biggest challenges I have as an interaction designer is balancing the needs of the user with business goals, then coming up with a solution that stakeholders will approve, while still keeping true to design principles, aesthetics, taste, ease of use etc. And sometimes its just not possible. Scott says:
“This means anyone who constantly sacrifices their own ideals, and regularly makes major compromises to satisfy the inferior opinions of ’superiors’ they do not respect, can not sincerely call their work art….”
Being a team player means compromising, it means picking your battles, it means using blue because the CEO likes blue. Thats a strike against me as an artist for sure. Scott goes on:
“…Are you proud of what your company makes? Does it go out the door with even half the soul you put into your designs? If you ship things to the world that are beneath your own bar, can you call it art in the same way you would if it met that bar?”
You know what? On that point I say yes. I am proud of what I do and happily put my name to it even if it is flawed. I do put my soul into my designs, and most of my colleagues are incredibly passionate about their work and their products. I feel bad for those folks who aren’t.
Scott and I agree on one thing:
“If you make paintings, movies, novels or similiar things, of course you’re an artist. Even if your work sucks (however we determine that), and even if you do it part time, or have never been paid a dime for your art, you still qualify.”
But it doesn’t have to be just what we traditionally think as art. I’m making stories using animation, music and storytelling. I think its art – I do it for me. That makes me an artist who works as a designer.