Art vs. Design

4 April 2015
An overview of the historical debate on the differences between arts and crafts, fine arts and applied arts, aesthetic requirements, and an example (19th Century French poster artist Jules Cheret).

The twentieth century’s distinction between ‘design’ and ‘art’ derives from the sudden and overwhelming growth of technological innovation, and the commercial demand for applied design, during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. The primary distinction was between the so-called high arts of painting, sculpture and architecture, and decorative or applied design (Collins 17). This differentiation between art and design is sometimes perceived as an unfair elevation of art at the expense of design. Yet, so long as the distinction is based on such qualities as reproducibility, methods of production, or function, it is both valid and valuable. If, however, the differences between art and design are cited as criteria of aesthetic, or even moral, value, the distinction does not hold up, and is of little value to understanding either type …

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