What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For love or money

The Great Kalman vs Duffy Deathmatch. That's a combative interview about the future direction of design which occurred while I was in school (yeah, it's old, but still relevant). At the time Duffy seemed to have been winning the hearts and minds of the new generation. However Kalman's vision has come back with a vengeance (I'm cynical about it in that it's a basic play to not pay for good design). Possibly way too design geek napery for most, but this actually was a very influential event at the time.

And, as I stated, it's something the industry is still struggling with. Are we artists who shan't be sullied by vulgar corporate concerns of money and feeding ourselves? Or are we just highly educated street walkers charging a ten-spot for a hand-job?

Personally, I come down on the educated street walker side, although I'm worth more than a Hamilton. While what I do may look, smell, and taste like art, it isn't. Art is a personal expression, even for art that is commissioned (either as we do it now, or even in the days of patronage). What I do is an expression of my client/day job. While my personal style may leak through, it's more a function of production values than a real artistic expression.

That's not to say that I haven't done pieces that are my sole expression of composition. These are typically for the clients who "can't pay" (done as pro boon, work done for which the client welshes, that's another matter entirely). But even with that, most often the message isn't mine.

I'm also not arguing that artists also have free range of expression. Many do commissioned works. That's how you keep the lights on. An artist, however, typically is sought for their vision. Their patron or client is paying for that vision (if they agree with it at the end can typically be a sticking point).

Graphic designers are sought for their skills.

If you think of it militarily, artists are like the warriors who fight because of agape. Graphic designers aren't even soldiers, we're mercenaries who fight for the dollar. Soldiers are somewhere in between those. For a designer, it closely relates to recruitment posters of Poncho Villa. They stated, "Join up for the Glory and the Gold." But mostly for the gold.


vince said...

As a web designer who uses graphic artists either hired by the client or hired by me, I'd have to say that while the parameters are set by the client, very often the expression of those parameters is that of the designer.

Often the client doesn't have a clue exactly what they want - especially small businesses that need a logo before anything else. Yes, the client will dictate the broad strokes, but look at artists like Michelangelo and da Vinci. They did commissioned work, but brought their genius to the work even when the nature of the work was pretty specific.

Good graphics artists are artists. They may not make art that that hangs in galleries, or is displayed on deviantArt, but that doesn't make them any less an artist in my book.

Steve Buchheit said...

Vince, like I said, what we do looks a lot like art, but I have to disagree that what we do is art.

Graphic design/visual communications has more in common with the scribes and more ancient monument carvers than we do with the artists. What we do is communicate through the use of art. What we do approaches the language cognition centers. Artists, on the other hand, work toward the amygdala and emotions.

This doesn't mean I don't take pride in what I do, or that what I do doesn't have beauty. It's just to a different purpose and effect.