So today. I got this question thrown at me: "How do your practices differ when creating a commissioned design project to creating art for yourself, i.e do you feel constrained by the perceived difference between design and art?".
Really good question. For a while there I truly intended to give my clients my best. Sometimes I’d stay up till 3am working on client work, with my fave music up, in my PJ’s, only to have the secretary the next day in the client meeting say she doesn’t like yellow, and eventually having the client have me change things, which in turn makes my work ugly.
A few years of this crap; design by committee (when you present your work to clients and the client gathers opinions from their business partners, secretaries and mothers), uneducated clients (not everyone gets good design), clients who fail to trust me as a designer, it was enough for me to always design with compromise in mind. IE: I never give my clients everything I’ve got anymore. I only put my everything into my own work, which in this case you can call “art”.
So I very rarely do design work for others anymore these days. I suppose I've taken being my own boss to new heights?!
Interested to hear everyone else's experiences/opinions!
I think design by committee is a bad idea when people outside of the profession are just throwing their opinions around.
Opinions are just that... opinions. Most of what we do as designers is also opinion, but the key difference is our opinions are informed by our training and experience.
You do get some value from listening to other people though, if you design in a vacuum you are really just designing for yourself and not really designing for your audience.
In my experience, the best aspect of digital design and User Experience is that unlike print design it can be measured and tied to business outcomes through analytics and A/B testing. The client can complain about you using a certain button colour or putting the form on the right hand side, but if you've proven empirically that this actually converts higher they don't really have a leg to stand on.
Validated learning is a wonderful thing. It brings out our assumptions and opinions and tests them. You can proceed with confidence that your techniques and design patterns actually work.
Firstly, I've never really considered myself to be an "artist" in the true sense as even when I do personal work it kind of has an agenda, be it self promotion, try something new or just work out the design/illustration muscles and get something out of my head.
I'd like to think that the line between commissioned design and self initiated work is more blurred these days as people see what I do so they know what to expect in some way.
I also pride myself on being able to work in a lot of different styles so there is also a lot of "I'd like this kind of thing" so it's a bit swings and roundabouts really as I still need to pay the bills.
I do try to be upfront about avoiding the whole "design by committee" by explaining that it's detrimental to making anything decent but then most of the time I'm on quite tight deadlines so most often they have to trust the designer as there's no time for that shit.
Saying that, I most of my work comes via other creatives so I don't often get put in to that situation.
Recently I've started working with a professional mural company (think professional graff) and it's given me the opportunity to work with some super talented people that I do consider to be 'real artists' on some pretty high profile gigs.
Quite often the briefs are quite open which lead to some quite lengthy phone calls to thrash out ideas along with on-site discussions which I actually love as the passion is pretty intoxicating and it's SO good to work with people on the same wavelength.
I think that if I can maintain a balance between the two then I'm good.
A/B testing and user experience is great when you have the budget... but for the small business client (which many of us freelancing work with) it will often boil down to whether they are the type willing to "trust" your expertise and knowledge, or want to have their personal views regarded as more important. I will always give my honest opinion if a client's request is not in their best interest with regards to the results/objectives they want to achieve, but in the end they're paying for the work, so if they want something that I regard as hideous so be it, I've given them my best advice, the (now more informed) choice is up to them...
I separated "art" and "design" years ago. Some lucky folk get paid for their "art" that works from a design perspective, but the majority would be advised to accept this difference, and keep their most "passionate" work for their own projects.
Well I create my own art and design projects which I definitely enjoy working on as there's no need to compromise at all but in saying that I still get some design projects from clients that I have free reign to do what I like or they're just happy with the concept and run with it.
Obviously like all of us, there's some jobs that just get nailed down and seem to go through change after change that ends up ruining the outcome but I never go into a project whether its client or personal with the the idea that its just a job, I'm still passionate about what I do and want to do the best job that I can and always put forward what I believe to be the best option first.
Oh that's a doozy. I'm still unsure what the difference between art and design is - mostly I can describe art as visual philosophy, where the artist is exploring or explaining their view of the world. Design tends to fit to more rigid requirements and outcomes, and it's usually made for someone other than the maker. Having said that, I've started seeing my own side projects as 'artistic' but they're heavily influenced by my outlook as a designer...
I'm uncomfortable about the idea of client opinion vs my own, as much because it makes me closed minded. I keep focussing on ways to facilitate a conversation that's based on outcomes and goals rather than opinions. In practice this ends up being a lot like @Dave's description!
I'm mostly a commercial photographer these days and designer for my own businesses mainly. So very similar to you @justinfox Not sure if you are more pissed off about rejection than the design- artist process though?
Heres my 2c worth!
The commercial creative world seems divided into service providers and artist most of the time, and they need to be more in tune with eachother IMO.
Lets be realistic here too. There are two types of designer. 1. Paid to design by an employer. 2. Freelance and own business owner. These two are very different people with different day to day roles. This is important to note, as 'designing' or 'creating art' in the commercial sense is often far far from ART. But it does not need to be.
I can only talk from a freelance and business owner point of view and experiences as i've never worked for a design firm, only myself for more than 15 years now.
The key for me has been to cross over the roles of service provider and artist and find a happy medium where bills get paid and creativity blossoms. The reality of any commercial creative position is that 95% of it is kissing ass and paying bills to enjoy the 5%. It does not have to always be 5% though- but it is the reality of the job.
If the bills are paid and the 5% is full of self initiated projects, traditional art, creativity, people, connecting, learning, growing and being 'that artist' then that's the win. This 5% then starts to become 10%, then %20.... etc. You can let go of the annoyances of making logos bigger and only using Helvetica because its 'just a fucking job' and you are being creative too.
From my experiences with designers, photographers, or anyone else who 'creates' to pay bills is that most never quite find this balance. Why? Well ego and wanting to always be right plays a huge part- also lack of confidence in what they do.
Then there is the fact that most clients don't want art. They want problems solved through great design- that for most of the time has some pretty boring and formulaic RULES that just work.
New designers should not focus and worry about the clients who want a bigger logo or only use helvetica. Are they repeat customers who are easy to please, pay well and on time and with formulaic design? And you don't want to work with them? They can email me any time.
Fucking pay the bills and focus on that first then go all out on the 5% and a few clients who give you the open space to create art for them as a solution through design. Or better still as i've found- build your own brand and design the shit out of that to increase the 5% quicker.
So for me i've personally found that design is truly art if you respect it, understand it and solve problems first then 'create'.
there was a studio in Melbourne in the early 2000's who tackled this dilemma really well. it was a cross between a uni project and a studio. their concept was to meet the client once, get a brief and come up with a solution based on their knowledge, skills and experience. once presented that was it. no changes. done.
they produced amazing work and gained a great reputation fast.
i think if you're good enough and you lead the client down a particular path then you can design for you and them without compromise. education, respect and luck come into play.
personally i struggle these days to to anything for myself (kids). meaning to get back into it.