Design and Art: So Similar Yet So Different

As an artist and an aspiring graphic designer, I understand the importance of knowing the difference between graphic design and visual art.

Both fields exercise ample of creativity and are often confused to be the same, especially when taking digital art into consideration. However, the two are quite different.


Fig 1. ‘The Sawing A Lady In Half Performance” A digital illustration



The purpose of creating art is generally personal as artists are people who use their works as a form of expression. They need to feel inspired or need something, like a dream or an emotion, to provoke the urge to create artwork. Some artists create work not for the public to see whereas some create for the world to connect through and maybe relate to.

On the other hand, the purpose of a designer is focused on helping clients communicate with and attract their target audience. The objective is to help their clients grab their target audience’s attention through works such as logos, advertising, packaging etc. Designers have to create using specifications set by a client or upgrade pre-existing designs- with the intention to appeal to its audience and the product. (Leveque, 2013)


Fig 2. NYC Artist Ivan Alifan standing next to his painting from his “It’s Not Milk” series



The general idea of art is that it has no rules as art is everything you can imagine. It can be created in any way possible. There are no limits- Pure imagination and emotion. Since the purpose of art is personal, artists have complete creative freedom.

However, design does have rules. There are elements that need to be taken into consideration to achieve the results needed to attract a client’s audience. For that, it is important to understand the choice of certain variations of each element for example; the choice of colour and the choice of typography. Choices are made according to what mood is aimed to be set and what the message of the product is being delivered. 


Fig 3. An example of the principles of design being applied the poster for Black Swan (2010)



As mentioned earlier, art is a form of expression and there are no boundaries. This means art can sometimes be vague and allow viewers to interpret the meaning behind the art in whichever way they can. Collectively, not everyone would interpret the same message unless it is obvious. Hence, multiple messages are received from one piece of art. (Roper, 2016)

However in design, the purpose is to communicate with the audience, effectively attracting them towards the brand. To achieve that goal, designers would need to create designs and layouts that put forth a singular, straightforward message, meant to be understood clearly by everyone within the target audience range.



Fig 4. An example of a painting that gave mixed messages, Las Dos Fridas by Frida Kahlo




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Las Dos Fridas [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2017, from×569.jpg

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The Sawing A Lady In Half Performance [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2017, from–vintage-graphic-vintage-design.jpg



Opposites Attract: The Contemporary Colour Scheme

If you’ve read my previous post regarding Alice In Chain’s Rotten Apple, you would recall how I discussed Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell’s remarkable ability to harmonise. But what exactly is a harmony?

It’s the result of the arrangement of components that altogether create a specific aura. It’s often aimed to be the result of most things! Conversations, the general structure of this post and also the combination of colours.


Fig 1. A Nightmare Of Elm Street (1984)

The latter, colour harmony, is the concept of combining colours to deliver certain aesthetics and moods smoothly to viewers and it’s a crucial tool in the works of designers and artists. There are 5 types of colour harmony: complementary, split-complementary, triadic, analogous and tetradic. In this post, I will go in-depth about the complementary colour scheme, also known as the direct harmony. (Rodin, 2016)

The complementary colour scheme is the combination of two colours directly opposite to each other on the colour wheel. It’s the most commonly used colour scheme in media as it is known to be the most effective colour scheme when your work needs to be bold, striking and eye-catching due to the high contrast involved. (Benve, 2017) However, it is not recommended when used on text as it could be too intense for readers.

Fig 2. Contemporary Colour Wheel

Despite being so commonly used in the media industry, it’s tricky to harmonise the two colours as they are two extremes coming together. For example; Blue and orange. Blue falls on the cool side of the palette while orange falls on the warm side. Psychologically, blue represents serenity, coolness and relaxation whereas orange represents life, free-spirit and excitement. (Kolenda, n.d.)

When considering the effect that your work has to make on an audience, the difficulty lies in bringing a balance between two completely energies. Nevertheless, when using the right shades of both colours and using an equal colour ratio, they harmonise and neutralise each other.


Fig 3: Fight Club (1999)

The aura created by your work can differ due to the intensity of saturation. When the saturation is high, your work becomes dramatic, vivid and conspicuous. I came to learn this when doing my own art with this colour scheme. Before digitally altering it, the edge was subtle. I blamed this on the general nature of watercolours. It needed to be loud as my subjects had shocking personas. Once I increased the saturation, there was vitality, intrigue and life. It became a visual treat and did justice to my subjects.

Fig 4. (left) My artwork Manson before digital alteration, (right) After digital alteration increased saturation

If the saturation is too high, it becomes repulsive. Your work would have too much to say; like being caught in an argument. When low/neutral, it’s toned down, mellow and soothing; caters to most of the audience. Too low and the colours look merged into one. It’s dull and the work loses its energy entirely.

Well, regardless of its challenges, it’s one of the more exciting colour schemes to work with and if used wisely, you can create some pretty rewarding work.




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Rodin, R. (2016, June 14). Color Harmony: Why Hulk Wears Purple Pants. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from