Debate: Art, Craft and Design

We had a discussion on the Monday subject time about the definition of Art, Craft and Design and what are the specifics that create a boundary between the three.
In our project brief there are statements to help define these areas-
Its useful, it solves a problem (Design)
Its decorative, attractive and an interesting thing to have about the place and is potential useful (Craft)
It is though provoking, holds meaning and is of aesthetic interest (Art)

We were asked whether we agreed with these statements. I do agreed with these statements mostly however,I feel the definition of design needs expanding. I feel that a good bit of design doesn’t only solve the problem, but is also attractive. I think this is what separates design from simply engineering. For instance, if you take a Ferrari, people would say its a beautifully designed car. The designs could have just let the engineers  build and engineer all the complex components of the car like the suspension, the drivetrain, the engine and when they had finished the structure of the car with all the technology inside, just design the body work around this. The car would end up looking very boxy and wouldn’t be very attractive. So the designers work with the engineers to make compromised between what the designers want the car to look like aesthetically, what will be drag efficient what is actually possibly in terms of getting all the complex components inside the shape of the body work. So I believe good design doesn’t only solve a problem but it is also attractive. Craft takes that attractive aspect and puts it before problem solving. In fact I believe a piece of craft work could exist purely for the aesthetics of the piece, focusing on the process that produced the final piece rather than any function of any sort. From there, art emerges and become something with context and meaning with aesthetic interest, but the aesthetics may not necessarily appeal to everyone, or might not be the sort of aesthetic you would be looking for in a product design.

It is often the case that it is down to what the creator intends. If the creator wants the object to be considered a piece of art then that is what the public will see it as. I think it is also down to the location of the piece of work. If the piece is found in a gallery then it would be considered a piece of art. If it was found in a craft exhibition then it would be seen as piece of craft work, aside from the definitions above. A product in a shop would be considered a piece of design where the shape and form has been considered as well as the function, it can depend very much on the organisation as to what they put first; the form or the function. The best design combines the two in a perfect harmony. I like to take Apple products as a good example of this. Take an Apple computer for instance; It is elegantly designed with extreme attention to detail whilst still being a well-functioning machine. Because they are so attractive and function well, they are able to charge a lot of money for their products, maybe twice what it is actually worth on paper. This is because good design sells. It makes people desire the product and that desire overrides actual value and worth. The truth of it is you could build a computer of exactly the same specification for a 3rd of the price, but it wouldn’t be as beautiful as an Apple product. This is why I think it is not right to say design is simply just about solving a problem or providing a function, but to be a successful piece of design it needs to be attractive.

Some example of objects that fit clearly into the three categories

Antony Gormley with his “Angle of the North”. It has a meaning behind it; he said it was a ” focus of hope at a painful time of transition for the people of the north-east, abandoned in the gap between the industrial and the information ages.” It certainly is of aesthetic interest, its gigantic wings and complex engineering required to withstand all the weather conditions. I say it would come under the category of Public Art.

Jonathan Ive with his iMac designs. They are brilliantly functional, and beautifully formed. They have simplistic form, and are minimalistic with no fussing around the edges but are clean and neat with the minimal amount of buttons. I think this is a perfect example of great design and is the style of design that I really enjoy.

This is an area that I haven’t explored many artist. But when I think of Craft I tend to think about processes such as woodturning and ceramics. Glass blowing is also another process that I consider to be a craft. So I think a good example of a craftsman is Duncan Ayscough who is one of the subject tutors for ceramics and gave us a lecture earlier on in the term. I really like his work and I think it shows what craft is all about. The main focus of his ceramics pots are the beautiful, simplistic and elegant forms, beautifully finished in a gradient of deep colour. You get a real sense of the process involved during the making of the objects. They could be functional and hold flowers or something, but they stand alone in their own right. They are an object that would nice and interesting just to have around the house.



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