Art and design are two words that are always put together, even though they are uncomfortable bedfellows. The two are incredibly distinct in their aims, methods and outcomes. Artists and designers form incredibly strong opinions about the differences between their works. Here are some of the key differences and similarities between both art and design…


This is the most fundamental difference between the two disciplines. Art asks questions whilst design answers them. Art exists to challenge the viewer while design seeks to fulfil a functional need. This difference is one that exists from the outset before the creative process has even begun.

Awe and Wonder

Art aims to inspire these feelings, design does not. You can appreciate good design but it is not the same as the emotions you have when looking at a breath-taking work of art. Art is partially fulfilling its purpose if these feelings are created but if design brings up these emotions it is simply a pleasant side effect.


There is no set process in art whilst design rigorously follows a set of clear principles. This relates back to the purpose of each. Because design seeks to solve a problem, it is geared towards this throughout the creative process. Art meanwhile has no set routine, so the artist’s process can actually affect the artwork and is a form of self-expression in its own right.


Usually art is produced by a single person but design is often undertaken by a team and this is reflected in the value. Art is sold as an original item that reflects the amount of time and effort put into the piece. But design considers mass production costs and difficulty of assembly to create a product that can reach a much larger audience.


Creativity and problem solving are key skills that both art and design require. The way in which these skills are used does differ. Design uses creativity and problem solving to create function and form. Whereas art uses these skills as part of the process of self-expression.

Design is no better than art and vice versa, both require a huge amount of skill, time, effort and education to do well. The only hope is that these distinctions help you realise the differences between these two intertwined worlds.

What do you think the differences between art and design are? Share your thoughts on our social media pages.