Graphic Design Vs. Art: A Brief Rant

I have a bachelor of fine arts degree with an emphasis in graphic design. I still don’t know what the heck art is. Is graphic design under the larger umbrella of art, or is it something different all together? My degree suggests graphic design can be art, but it is still a heated debate.

I admit that I am a little jaded about this issue. I never felt like I fit into these artsy circles that tended to define “deep” by how much it lacked intelligibility. I just wanted to make things that looked cool. Maybe I am lashing back simply because I don’t fit in. But I am getting ahead of myself. There is much that annoys me when it comes to how art is defined in many circles these days which tends to exclude graphic design. Let me mention a few of these criteria in a little more orderly fashion.

One criteria espoused today is that if your creation is a “commercial” endeavor, then it cannot be art. But any successful graphic designer will strive to be commercially successful to a certain extent. This, after all, is a graphic designer’s means of making a living. So apparently, the more money you try to make, the less artistic you are. You can only make a decent amount of money off your work by accident, most commonly after you are dead. This concludes stupid criteria number one.

The second criteria of a true artist according to today’s standard is that you should not care about how any audience responds to it. As an artist, the art should be about pleasing yourself, not anybody else. This criteria also excludes the graphic designer. A good graphic designer will try to please her client and will often design with a particular audience in mind. So other people being pleased by your work must also be a happy accident, not an intention for the artist. This concludes stupid criteria number two.

And finally, there is this whole “deepness” factor in art circles today that I mentioned earlier. In order to be art, the creation must be “deep”. “Deep” tends to be defined as “without objective meaning”. If the creator has any intention in the creation to communicate anything substantial, then it is less artistic. It could go without saying that this would also disqualify a graphic designer from the guild of art. How one can be creative without any intention I will never know, but there you have it. Meaning must also be grasped by the viewer only by accident. This concludes stupid criteria number three.

I will end this rant with a form of argumentation philosophers know as “reductio ad absurdum”. This style of argumentation tries to show a proposition is false by revealing the absurdities that would result if the proposition were true. If the proposed criteria are necessary to justify calling a creation art or the creator an artist, then Michelangelo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel would not qualify. Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceilings with images that were meant to convey specific ideas and intended to bring inspiration and joy to as many people as possible. So I guess the Sistine Chapel is not art and Michelangelo in this particular case is not an artist. But this is obviously absurd! Therefore the said criteria for art in many circles today is stupid.