Objects are always seen in context. Almost everything, from our clothing, our houses, our transport systems and even our food, has been designed to serve a specific purpose, to enhance our living. The way we think about an object, and the value or meaning we give to it, depends on where we are seeing it, on its context. Is it possible to create an environment devoid of context where we perceive the object purely for what it is? This has been one aim of the Modernist Art Gallery, what some have called "the bare white cube": to present each object as entirely independent. The painting is enclosed by a frame and surrounded by bare walls and neutral gallery space. Take it or leave it. But in fact it is not like that at all -- messages are being sent out. What would you think about the bucket in here? This gallery is an important cultural institution. There must be something very special about the pail. Merely by being put here it has been changed. You look more closely… Seeing it in different settings allows us to know more about it, or gives us a meaning. In other words the meaning of the object is not an innate absolute that exists in isolation along with the object. Quite the opposite: the meaning is produced by the relationship between the object and its surroundings - or by relationships with other objects. This meaning is an invisible structure of threads that surround the object, making connections to other objects or events or times.
All products evoke some sort of emotion, be it good or bad, strong or weak, wanted or unwanted. The most essential factor is whether or not it can communicate its use. The product must demonstrate its purpose and the way in which it is to be used. As a result, we see that there is a communicative aspect to a product, which is an important part of its design. Scissors are a perfect example of this: their form clearly indicates where the fingers should be inserted to operate them, even to someone who has never seen them before. Scissors are rightly considered a masterpiece of design: not only do they cut, but also tell of how they are to be handled and used. Consumers do not buy products just to admire the form; rather they buy it because it accomplishes certain tasks. Because, design needs to work.
It is essential that art must communicate to an audience as well, however, it is on a different level. Unlike design, art does not set out to create solutions about how things ought to be, but rather it asks questions and evokes response. Design is a very calculated and organised process in which the outcome must be logical. Logic is simple. Emotion however, that is more difficult. This is where the response becomes so important and the good or bad, strong or weak emotions that are evoked become the central theme in the artists work. From an emotional point of view, art is the experience of intense pleasure, born from looking or listening. This pleasure should be so intense, that the observer feels enchanted by it. These strong emotional feelings may come from the observer’s own way of understanding art, it can come from his own memories associated or revealed by art, or from a way of shaping his thoughts. All the same, the intention of art is to communicate to the heart, like Jackson Pollok once said, “It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said”, and so, on this level, art works too.
A more common understanding of art is that it simply “implies the intention to create an aesthetic effect”. Whether or not art is aesthetically pleasing is always very subjective but I believe it is very similar to Socrates’ argument to the Sophists: If we both look at a flower, you might think it is beautiful and I might think it is not. But regardless of our subjective interpretation, we both agree that there is a thing called beauty that exists in the universe. Artists are free to express themselves in any medium and color scheme, using any number of methods to convey their message. No artist ever has to explain why they did something a certain way other than that this is what they felt would best portray the feeling or emotion or message (good vs. bad art is another discussion). This is quite the opposite in relation to design. A modern idea of design is that the solution must “let all functional parts be visible, and all visible parts, functional”. The American industrial designers of the 1930s and '40s really took this concept literally as they redesigned blenders and locomotives for mass-market consumption that accentuated clean lines, sophistication restraint. Minimalists also stripped down to the bare essentials and simple, elegant, designs began to emerge which concentrated on emphasizing the necessities. Of course their acceptance was constrained by social expectations but, as stated previously, while having designs that ‘look good’ are a plus, the more important factor is more whether or not they are functional.
Both art and design can be commissioned. Both art and design can solve issues. Both art and design evoke an emotional response. Both involve aesthetics, purpose and communication. But it is really about the object in question. For instance, Andy Warhol took a common consumer design of a soapbox and placed it in an art gallery. In the supermarket, the box ‘worked’. It met its intended purpose. It advertised the soap, it informed the buyer that it contained soap inside and it also held the soap. It ticked all the boxes in the design department. As soon as it was displayed in the gallery it became art. And it ticked all the boxes for that too. Essentially, art and design are interchangeable agents of language that speak differently within different contexts. At their root, art and design are indivisible components with creativity at the centre; Design is both a part of art, and encompassing of art. Art is both a part of design, and encompassing of design, and while both have very similar responses, their outcomes may look very alike and their reasoning for existence may be much the same, it is their placing in society, their culture, and the intention in which the work is created which determines their function within society and whether or not they work.
N. Cross. Designerly Ways of Knowing. 2006 Spinger- Verlag London
D. Wiles, A short history of Western performance space, Cambridge University Press, 2003. P258
This concept was first presented by T. J. Clark in an article "The conditions of Artistic Creation" in the Times Literary Supplement 24 May 1974.
H.Read. Art and Industry. Shenval Press Ltd, Great Britain 1953. P61
D. Norman. The Design Of Future Things. 2007 Basic Books USA 151