artists vs designers

I was asked today, by a colleague at work, why I wasn't a graphic designer. To anyone who knows an art graduate, you will probably know what a (supposed) insult that is: everyone knows you don't mention designers around artists, or vice versa.

At university I refused to succumb to the mass peer pressure that we were all subjected to, and in return I would be sneered at with contempt by the art students for DARING to talk with a "designer", the word spat out as it was spoken, as though it was abhorrent. It was r.i.d.i.c.u.l.o.u.s and I simply couldn't win - I didn't get along with those pretentious art students, and although there were some awesome ones, they were few and far between. The designers were based in a different building on campus so we didn't see much of them around our studios, and when our paths did occasionally cross, I couldn't approach them as I knew they could tell I was an art student.

There was frequent mockery of the designers by the painters while
pissing about
working in their painting studios, with terms like 'linear', 'geometric' and the names of various fonts being bandied about, always in derisive tones and mocking accents. I imagine the graphic designers probably had better things to do than rise to the bait or join in the squabble. They certainly seemed to have more work to do than us.

The thing with art is that you can do almost anything and claim that it means almost anything. It's bloody hard to come up with original ideas (rien de nouveau, darling) with nothing whatsoever to go on, and no starting point. I guess that's the challenge of an art degree, and it was a real challenge. Everything "original" or controversial that I ever attempted to do at uni was met with absolute horror by my tutors, and I was even asked to leave the course in my final year after a particularly "disturbing" piece of work. It really wasn't anything that bad, and I still don't get what all the fuss was about, but for my final year I didn't have a tutor as they all refused to work with me. What a great example to set the artists of the future. Pah. I thought the whole point of art school was to push the boundaries of taste and to be as controversial as you want while in a supportive, if critical, environment, before spreading your wings and flying out into the big art world? That kind of thing would never have happened on a Graphics course. But then, I suppose I would never have been in the position to make anything terribly controversial on a Graphics course.

*secret - confession - alert*

In a way I kinda wish I had taken Graphics instead of Fine Art: I like the idea of being given a specific brief, and having a certain time limit in which to complete a certain amount of work. In Fine Art we were largely left to our own devices and just told to get on with it. Most people only really did any work when there was a group critique coming up, and even then it was often hollow, contrived rubbish. Where's the structure? Where are the guidelines? Where are the tick lists?

These days I think of myself as a Fine Art-educated illustrator. I'm neither an "artist" nor a "designer" and since I imagine there will always be a rivalry between the two groups, surely that means I can ironically mock both of them, right? It is a pretty amusing game to play...

If you are an artist or designer I'd be interested to hear how you feel about the others? Are you an artist who secretly adores fonts? Are you a designer who longs to create something messy and pretentious? Come on people, confess!

Or are you neither and don't know what on earth all the fuss is about?!

2 hellos:

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading a book called "Type: The secret history of letters" and can't draw for toffee, so I leave it up to you.

Vixie said...

Let me know if it's good and I'll add it to my list. I'm reading a book called "Just My Type" - I'm secretly addicted to fonts...

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