Duchamp’s Fountain (1917)
Human psychology operates according to categories defined by labels. Once a different label is applied, should it not follow that there is a difference in substance?
Which brings us to the labels of art and design. Obviously there is some overlap but are there any differences in substance that warrants things being allocated to each category?
The general convention is that if something can’t be used, then it is art. If it can be used, then it is design. Then we have the likes of Marcel Duchamp who stuck a functional item like a urinal in an art exhibition to blur the lines once more. Admittedly, you can’t really use a urinal in a gallery once the plumbing is disconnected lest security soon escort you out the door. In that regards, the urinal removed from the function it was created for becomes a work of art. Patrons can then admire the artistic talents that governed its designer. Confused? Good. Duchamp would be happy.
Anyway, some people who have embraced the labels of designer or artist have tried to define the difference, usually in ways that add to the prestige of their own label. For example, designer Henrik Fisker proposed,
“If design isn’t profitable, then its art.”
This obviously begged the question of whether something stayed art if it were profitable.
Artist David Hockney had a view more complimentary to his profession when he proposed,
“Art has to move you and design does not, unless it is a good design for a bus.”
So there we have it. Art is useless, unprofitable but it moves you. Meanwhile, design is functional, profitable but easily forgotten as kind of background visuals. Agree?