27 Feb Plastic arts and design
This article tries to highlight the deep falsity that lies behind the pretense of separating the design of the plastic arts.
The refusal to accept the relationship between plastic and design in the discourse of many designers is reiterative. This relationship, which was obvious at the beginning of the discipline, is now repeated with great emphasis on contemporary and postmodern design, as opposed to the ideal of modernity, whose precepts are still present under cover of this resistance.
The obstinacy with which it is tried to separate the art of the design, is directly proportional to the magnitude of an error in which many designers use, who try to dissociate artificially both concepts. For this they try to sketch the definitions of art and design, to compare them and to point out the differences. The error, however, does not arise, as might be thought, from a poor definition of the concept of design but, on the contrary, from an incorrect definition of the concept of art.
When some designers try to establish the difference between art and design, they mention the different starting conditions of each. The design, they say, part of an order, of a customer asking for resolution to a problem, the designer will be little more than a tool to solve this communication problem. Art, on the other hand, is for them motivated by the artist’s need for self-expression. Some even deny the influence of the market on the work of art, as if the artistic work were an evanescent entelequia and without formal life. This is, of course, false.
The artistic work is subject to a market and a particularly imposed traffic. It does not escape this logic, despite the spiritual content that, at best, and not always, grounds it. On the other hand, it is ridiculous to limit the view of the artistic work to the post-romantic concept, which proposes the free expression of the author over the commissions of a hypothetical client.
Neither the history of art begins in the nineteenth century nor the profile of the artist was always the stereotype that was erected at that time: rebellious and cursed, away from reality and the market. For thousands of years the artist lived on the orders of the most diverse clients, from the Church to the crown, from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. Limiting the definition of art to what has happened in the last hundred years is a big mistake. The works that fill churches and museums were commissioned by patrons many times more intransigent and incomprehensible than the worst of the current clients; it would be interesting to ask Michelangelo the details of why he painted the Sistine Chapel.
In effect, the artist also has to deal with a client, and currently continues to do so. It keeps paying attention to the market, and is still conditioned by it. However, the art world does not make a religion of “deal with the customer”, as it happens in the design. Anyone who carries out work without dependency or autonomous relationship, will eventually have to face a client. But this happens to painters, architects, engineers, or hardware dealers; and none of these professions or trades make this problem a central concept of their discipline. The design, although it seems unusual, does. And this centrality of the discussion about concepts that have their value, but which have to be taken by the logic of their own weight as secondary, leave aside issues essential for design, such as creativity, which should be central.
Indeed, the work mechanics of the designer have points of contact with the artist’s, which are easily recognizable for those who have frequented both disciplines. And the development of a graphic or visual piece, with the specific differences that each type of piece assumes, has an instance of creation similar to that of, for example, a painting. This statement, which some may consider extremely risky, is evident when we analyze the design process (the design process itself, not its production).
Both in the artistic process and in the design process, there are a series of decisions that appeal to the subjectivity of the individual, without the latter, despite the recommendations of objectivity of many professionals in the case of design, can escape from facing such responsibilities. These decisions confront the designer with the possibility and obligation to cross a field where certainties are unfortunately nonexistent.
Take color as an example. A design work may suggest a high, medium or low key color palette by its characteristics, those of the client, or those of the product, if a formal, classic or, on the contrary, dynamic and modern effect is sought. This suggestion will, in general, be quite poor, when it is a product without a complete graphic system that precedes and supports it. Therefore, at the time of the preparation of the color palette, to complete this missing, the designer must necessarily make decisions of a personal nature and taste. The same happens with other resources that complete the structure of a design and that may perhaps be secondary, such as fillets, backgrounds, etc., but that have to do with the taste of the designer and, in the worst case, with the fashion or trend of the moment.
To deny the importance of this personal margin of decision is to deny the stamp that each designer puts on what he does, although many deny it. However much one tries through the push of rationality, to compress and minimize that margin of subjectivity, it will always exist. Such ambition of objectivity is therefore inconsistent.
The rationalist design proposes to subtract oneself in the throw, until muzzle the subjectivity, to think only in the interpreter. If that were possible, and there was a “good form” for each kind of visual message, an objective form, we would have a limited and regulated repertoire of “perfect” forms of secure communication. This repertoire of Platonic ideals – such as Japanese painting which is a system of regulated signs with a specific form of painting a bamboo, a way of painting a mountain, etc. – would be like a library to go to when commissioning a work, and a designer would be little less than a guy with good memory. Fortunately, this absurdity, which is the result that is reached if the rationalist pretensions are taken to the extreme, is impracticable.
Nowadays, rationalist assumptions have been devalued by the clash of philosophies or post-philosophies, the prevalence of readability has been blurred in pursuit of a relativization of the – always doubtful – findings of perceptual theories, and the proliferation of cravings and whims of author are in the design part of the established horizon. Therefore, the communication difference between the plastic and the design becomes completely diffuse when contemplating the results of the contemporary design.
Although the differences between the two disciplines are well marked when we consider the function of each – the supposed obligation of the design to “try”, by all means within its reach, to communicate an idea in such a way as to avoid as far as possible the free interpretation, opposite and desirable phenomenon in plastic – when we contemplate many of the applications of the current design, we notice an abundance of formal games very different from the ideas that, a priori, we can have about a “clear” communication, that refer us to the free flight of purely artistic creativity. Whoever compares one of these pieces of design with an artistic product finds, after the historical parenthesis of modernity, a formal richness that ties them together.
Today, the divorce of art and design is inadequate and counterproductive. On the contrary your contact should be deepened. In bringing the signifiers from the field of art, the design also forgot to appropriate its meanings, the theories that supported them. The strange design currently a theory and many authors agree on this point: design theory is flimsy. Resigning to lose the art, denying its influence, is too high a price that the design must pay for unwarranted independence. However, it is not enough that the design only appropriates theories emerging from art. It should interest other fields, sociology, psychology, philosophy and linguistics, among others – some have already been transited, sometimes not with too much luck or good intentions. It is imperative that the design elaborates its own theory. Accepting his artistic heritage and facet would be a good start.
taken from the Venezuelan magazine Encontrarte