The Difference Between Art And Design

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The information I’m expressing here is not something you, as the owner of a website, need to be thoroughly familiar with. But I think that understanding a couple of basics here will help you understand what a good website does.


At its very core, Art is a communication. What is communicated depends on the viewer’s interpretation. The best art could be said to create an emotional bond between the artist (or the artist’s work) and the viewer.

Design has, at its core, the function of communicating a specific message, idea, or action. It is the arrangement of elements in order to create a specific impression. This holds true of graphic and web design as well fashion, interior, industrial, advertising, animation, landscape, and architectural design.

In the words of designer, speaker and author John O’Nolan, “Good art sends a different message to everyone. Good design sends the same message to everyone”.


Art is considered a “higher” function than design. But the best designers may be considered artists, just as those who have elevated what they do to the highest level are called “Artists”. A great design, though it may have a different purpose than a work of art, can achieve the same emotional impact as a great piece of art.

The emotional “bond”, or emotional reaction, created by good art is also created by good design. There is “impact”. It’s as simple as that; and impact always carries with it an emotional reaction.

The artist may do this intuitively, but a good designer is aware of the way the human mind works, the way the eye moves, and the way we process information. A great example of this a scientific study at Harvard University of foveal (direct) vision versus peripheral vision. Direct vision picks up detail. Peripheral vision picks up shadows, gradients and impressions. When staring directly at the Mona Lisa’s mouth, a smile is not apparent. It’s only when looking at her eyes, for example, that the famous enigmatic smile becomes a smile.

The best kind of design uses emotion as the carrier wave for the informational message that is its purpose. If, when you look at a web page, you get an emotional reaction, an impression, a “wow”, a desire, an affinity, curiosity, or motivation, you’ve got a great design.

Interested in finding out how great design can help you reach more people and become more successful? Email us at or call us at 781 886 6050 to find out more.