Graphic design = art / art = graphic design. Before we argue whether or not the equation is reflexive, let’s first determine whether it’s even valid. It’s a topic that has been debated ever since the first graphic designer emerged from the ooze a couple of centuries ago. So before we ask, “are they the same?” it might be better to ask: “how are they different?” It might be safe to say that the parallels between art and design are obvious; the differences are best explained in the execution.
The commercial design process is, by its definition, strategic and calculated, with an overall business objective at its heart. When we refer to design, the word “usability” comes to mind. It’s not enough to say how much you like or dislike a commercial piece; one has to drill down past the overall aesthetic. It’s more useful to ask, “How does this design work; what problem does it solve?” Also, “Who is our audience and how will they respond?” These are key questions that, when addressed effectively, ensure a design delivers a cohesive message to the consumer. The “voice” of the design should be both communicated–and understood–with clarity.
When referring to the process of fine art, explanations should be unnecessary. There are no rules or boundaries and no commercial objective drives the creation. An artist is concerned with expression and form; practicality is irrelevant. Art sends different messages to every viewer, depending on the artist’s intent. Artists should elicit an emotion or pose a question through their work. It should offer a response; whether that is positive or negative is up to the viewer. In the end, design is about answers, and art is about questions.