DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Design & Architecture

Posted in Design & Architecture on June 5, 2013 3:37 pm EDT

Viewpoint: Architects are not Artists









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TAGS: creativity,


By Ron Geyer

The best architects are expert servants. They’re problem solvers armed with boards, bricks and passion. Still, too many people, including architects, regard design professionals only as artists—a kind of aesthetic savant brought in to make the technical stuff look pretty.

Keith Frankel, head of HubSpot’s creative and design team was speaking to web designers when he wrote Your Designers Are Not Artists, and You Need to Stop Thinking That Way. He acknowledges the possibility of offending those who disagree, but did a nice job summarizing the differences. Here’s a summary:

Design serves a very distinct and altogether different role [from art]. Rather than focusing primarily on form or expression, the primary purpose of design is to support function.

Design is first and foremost a job of solving problems. Designers see (or are tasked with responding to) a need. They must brainstorm how to best satisfy that need, create the solution, and then send the result out into the world for others to enjoy. In such a way, design is all about making someone’s life easier. Everything on top of that is (aesthetically pleasing) icing on the cake.

There is a terrible misconception that good design is flashy or ornate. Even worse, that it should be loud or “eye-catching.” This misunderstanding has directly contributed to the designer vs. artist dilemma, and couldn’t be further from the truth. The most successful designs satisfy presenting and highlighting your content without calling attention to the highlight itself. Good design isn’t necessarily loud or ornate. In fact, it is often completely invisible.

Keep in mind that the goal of design is, first and foremost, to support the function of your content by providing thoughtful solutions to your problems. Additionally, designers out there that view themselves as artists need to embrace this shift in mentality; you may be an artist in your free time, but when working in a business capacity, you’re a problem solver.

One contractor I know derisively refers to architects as “finger painters.” Some of us have earned that. Beauty matters, and is part of what a building “does,” but relegating architecture and architects to a superficial role misses an opportunity to address complex issues with an integrated response. It will seem self-serving here, but few other professionals come to the table with as broad an understanding of the challenges that building owners face.



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