The difference between Graphic design and Art through Minimalism

Although the difference between art and design is obvious, people having the debate on whether counting graphic as art (Leveque 2013)[i]. However, I find that some of the areas are unclear when it comes to minimalism, the line between the purpose of doing art and design is blurry. Therefore, I want to use minimalism to discuss the difference between Graphic design and art.

Minimalism is popular over decades, starting from the 1950s. Rather than using visual richness to get attention, it uses the simplicity of minimalism catches the audience’s eyes. And it has a wide range of different industries is using it, such as art, graphic design, and architecture. In graphic design, the purpose is to promote information and use it as a communicator. Therefore, it tends to be more objective in order to successfully give messages. The clarity of using a few typography and simple images always successfully captures the target consumers’ attention, in order to achieve the aim. So people tend to use more minimalism for advertisement. In the aspect of advertising, when people go on a street with posters on the street wall, they will not spend much time on looking at them, it will be like a glance. As a result, in this short period of time, in order to deliver messages to people, there will be just important information on the poster. And with a clean style, it could stand out the crowd. This kind of scenario attracts more designers to focus on this style of design.

In the perspective of art, it is more subjective as it will come up in an abstract way, as the expression is more personal and different audience will alter as they receive the art. However, the minimalism in art wants to reduce the personal expression to the minimum status, such as composition, complexity, and meaning, etc (The Art Story Contributors 2017)[ii]. Audience receive a pure piece without any additional emotion. It is opposite to the similar style – Abstract Expressionism, which is using abstract to express the artist’s personal emotion and feeling.

Back to our topic, the purpose of graphic design and art. Generally, Graphic design uses work to present ideas to people, which is objective. In contrast, for artworks, they mostly express feelings from the artists, giving a subjective view to the audience. The audience may act as a passive to receive the messages from the art pieces. However, as it was said above, Minimalists in art just want to give people an objective reaction, almost emotionless and meaningless (The Art Story Contributors 2017). In other words, the “interpretation” is given back to the audience, which the idea of the work is open for the people who see it. “What you see is what you see”, said Frank Stella (Rosenberg 1972: 125)[iii].

One of the examples of Minimalist art is Donald Judd, Untitled (1969) shown in Figure i. The 10-coppered rectangles stacked up on the wall to play with the positive and negative spaces, without the attempt to create illusion and meaning in order to make it feels like in the industrial production (Ragheb n.d.)[iv]. In fact, it was made by a factory, Donald Judd just told the workers how to make the sculpture (MoMALearning n.d.)[v].The distance between each copper unit and the size is the same, it is repetitive yet pure. It is showing that the art in minimalism is more objective than subjective. It makes me think of the Pop Art, which advocates mass production, advertising, and commercial status. Also, it suggests the purpose of Graphic design as some of them produce the works in order to promote some products in the commercial industry as marketing.


Figure i: Donald Judd, Untitled  1969, Copper, 9 x 40 x 31 in
Guggenheim Museum, New York

However, Shigeo Fukuda, a famous Graphic Designer who promote antiwar and environmental friendly using Minimalism (Heller 2009)[vi]. One of his influential pieces, Victory 1945, using a simple image of a bullet going back into a gun indicated the end of World War II along with the surrender of Japan and Germany’s Nazi. In my opinion, it reveals that people holding back the fire and bring back the peace of the world. As a result, his minimalist designs captured many people’s attention and made them concern about on different world issues, making Graphic design a non-commercial view. Furthermore, it is similar to some art pieces, having the aim to tell the artist’s view to the audience. For instance, Pablo Picasso, the cubism piece Guernica, 1937. It tells about the Spanish Civil war in order to show how he felt about it and let people rethink and have some introspection in order make the world a better place. In this case, the purposes of doing both Graphic design and art are the same, as they giving an objective expression, which having an antiwar message to the public to indicate the problem, to tell people about it. On the other hand, subjective feeling and emotion were put in it. Picasso heard the news in Paris and felt depressed about his country’s war which Nazi supported one side of them and bombed the city. In the 40s, Germans were controlling Paris at that period, one of the officers asked Picasso in his studio once,” Did you do that?”. “No,” Picasso replied, “you did.” It showed his hatred on wars (Robinson n.d.)[vii].

Figure ii: Shigeo Fukuda, Victory 1945 1975

It is said that art is a talent and design is a skill (Leveque 2013)[i], which is unfair since it seems that one thing has more privilege than the other, one is better than another one. Therefore, despite the fact that art and graphic design is different, the purpose of them is not always lying on one side, which art is not always subjective, and design is not always objective and commercial. They switch sometimes in different styles. Art can be pure and without meaning, Graphic design can be expressive according to the designer’s feeling. Every person has their tastes, therefore, Graphic could be a category of art in someone opinion. To conclude with Brandon Boyd’s quote, “Art is everywhere, and everywhere is art” (Boyd n.d.)[viii].

Figure iii: Pablo Picasso, Guernica 1937

Bibliography and references

[i]    Leveque, E. (2013) Art vs. Graphic Design: The Debate Rages On [online]. Available from <http://thedeependdesign.com/art-vs-graphic-design-the-debate-rages-on/&gt; [23rd Jan 2017]

[ii]    The Art Story Contributors (2017) Minimalism [online]. Available from <http://www.theartstory.org/movement-minimalism.htm&gt; [23rd Jan 2017]

[iii]    Rosenberg, H. (1972) The De-Definition of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 125

[iv]    Ragheb, J.F. (n.d.) Untitled [online]. Available from <https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/1741&gt; [22nd Jan 2017]

[v]    MoMALearning (n.d.) Donald Judd. Untitled (Stack). 1967 [online]. Available from <https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/donald-judd-untitled-stack-1967&gt; [22nd Jan 2017]

[vi]    Heller, S. (2009) Shigeo Fukuda, Graphic Designer, Dies at 76 [online]. Available from <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/arts/design/20fukuda.html&gt; [23rd Jan 2017]

[vii]    Robinson, L. (n.d.) Picasso, Guernica [online]. Available from <https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/early-abstraction/cubism/a/picasso-guernica&gt; [23rd Jan 2017]

[viii]    Boyd, B. (n.d.) BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2017. [online]. Available from <https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/brandonboy586124.html&gt; [23rd Jan 2017]

Figure i.    https://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/judd.php

Figure ii.    http://www.designishistory.com/1960/shigeo-fukuda/

Figure iii.    http://lewebpedagogique.com/histoiredesartscamus/files/2014/10/guernica.jpg

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