Walk along the street and ask each passer-by what art and design are separately. For each person, you will get a different answer. Some will even argue that there is no difference, or if there is any difference, it is one that concerns only scholars and art critics.
Experts and scholars have disagreed for years, perhaps even centuries, over the distinction between art and design, what falls into each category, and more importantly, what happens when you combine the two.
To a certain extent, all artists incorporate both art and design in their work. Professor James Whitehall, specializing in art and history, states that the simplest distinction may be that while art inspires, design actives. Or put otherwise, art is the beauty and design is the function. When the two are combined, it becomes something incredible.
This fusion creates artistic design, an intriguing intersection which no one understands fully. But some have chosen to embrace it as a part of their lives, seeking to make as many aspects of their life both beautiful and functional. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just the strange modern art where a toilet with streamers and graffiti becomes a major art piece. No, true art melded with design creates a statement about you, your surroundings, or your time. At its core, adding artistic design to your life means you choose those items which function as you need them to function and yet which please or inspire you artistically.
Centuries ago, artists, architects, and the like did not have fancy terms to describe functional art. But that did not mean it was any less in demand. If anything, it was more on display then as a symbol of class and nobility.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon in all their splendor were intended as beautiful and bountiful reminders of Nebuchadnezzar II’s power and wealth, but this elaborate architectural wonder was also designed to please Queen Amytis of Media and remind her of her home.
The Hagia Sophia, an impressive cathedral famous for its exceptional dome and detailed mosaics, was designed to inspire worship to God and remind them of His Holiness. Similarly, the Umayad Mosque in Damascus was intended to draw followers of Allah into reverent worship.
Weapon crafting also revealed the exceptional attention to artistic design. In medieval Japan or the Muromachi Period, the katana or samurai sword was crafted with great care. The blade, handle, and sheath were all to be designed with attention to detail, symbolism, and beauty.
Calligraphy, though varying in its form across nations, was likewise intended to convey an important message while doing it artfully. A single stroke across the paper conveyed just as much in its words as it did in its form, the ink used, and the hand that made it.
While it is simple to say that it is a fusion of two differing concepts, it is easier to see what it is in life. We see it most often in architecture and interior design. While most of us cannot afford to purchase ornate homes or to live in the lavish lifestyles of the nobility and royalty, wealth and prestige are not required to incorporate this concept into daily life. Though most associate it with the intricacies of tiny statues and the grandness of shining domes, artistic design can be embodied even in a carefully placed wood carving used to hold spoons above the kitchen sink.
What makes this all the more challenging is that art varies from person to person. Function is easier to determine than art, and most people know right away whether something works as it should. A simple copper whistle may work fine, singing the notes the musician plays exactly as it was intended. But it might not be beautiful. To determine this, it could require that it be made of a certain metal or have certain embellishments.
Thus an essential step in incorporating this into your life, aside from a general academic inspection, requires that you understand what you like. What is beautiful or attractive to you? It does not have to be that way to anyone else. Consider all those things that you enjoy seeing along with the colors that please you and the patterns that draw your eye. This will help you to understand what your artistic style is. Consider next what you need the object or room to do. That will tell you the function or the design that you need.
Artistic design can be seen in almost every aspect of life if one looks for it. But if you have not incorporated it before, it might be good to consider it in two distinct categories. Think of large scale or macro designs and art, and think of small scale or micro designs and art. As you are working to develop this part of yourself, start small and work your way up.
Small Scale Designs and Art
Here we look at appearance and function on a more minute level. It begins with the simple choices from a single coffee mug on the desk to the earrings on the rack. Each piece is chosen, not simply because it does what it should but because it pleases you.
Some prefer to create these unique items by painting or crafting. Others choose to scour garage sales and auctions to find long lost treasures. The benefit of starting small is that it is, in most cases, friendlier on the wallet, unless you choose something like the Hope Diamond. But though the items may not be as large or elaborate, they will make a statement in the room. Eventually, they may even become part of the large-scale design.
Macro Designs and Art
Here we have the architecture and interior decorating, which is most commonly associated with artistic design. Every aspect of the room or the building is designed with a particular purpose or set of themes in mind.
For most of us, such a large scale plan is something that will have to come about on down the road. It may appear in the house that we choose or build, the garden we design, or the room we redecorate. Everything from color choices to shaping to accessories and knick-knacks kept on display play a role in developing this design.
Why Does It Even Matter?
For some, artistic design has no bearing on life whatsoever. If the object does what it is supposed to do and the house keeps out the elements, then that is enough. But for those who want to make it a part of their lives, they do so for many reasons, the most common being that it is a mark of individuality.
As you combine those elements which you find pleasing and match them to objects that do what you need, you put a part of yourself on display. Coffee mugs, wool coats, picture frames, and window treatments all offer a variety of ways for individuals to express themselves and state their uniqueness in day to day life. Our personalities, our likes, our dislikes, our strengths, and our weaknesses seep into the décor. Those who invest in artistic design and create styles of their own dare to explore a part of themselves and express it for all to see.