Inspiration vs. Motivation

Oct 3, 2016 | The Business of Design

“Good art inspires; good design motivates.”
Otl Aicher

Art and design are irrevocably linked fields. Both require skill and a discerning eye. There’s also at least a little bit of each in the other, so it can be hard to draw the dividing line between the two. I’ve heard all of the following at one point or another:

  • Art is for the soul, design is for money.
  • Art is made to be looked at; good design is made to be invisible.
  • Art is focused on form, design is focused on function.
  • Art is interpreted; good design is understood.
  • Art is free form, design is calculated.
  • Art has no rules; design has definite bounds and processes.
  • Art asks and challenges, design answers and solves problems.
  • Art has no purpose beyond itself; good design only exists to serve a purpose.
  • Art sends a different message to everyone; design sends the same message to everyone.

None of these are wrong, necessarily. In fact, I quite like a lot of them. But the line can be blurred either direction for many of those points, as there are exceptions to both sides. That’s why I like the quote for today’s post.

Good art inspires; good design motivates.

Inspiration vs. motivation. Art doesn’t have to do anything other than be visually interesting, and ideally evoke an idea or inspire an emotional reaction of some kind. Design, on the other hand, is strategic. It’s meant to either enable the user to do something more easily, or to motivate the user/viewer to take action in the first place. It can even be as simple as motivating them to choose your company over your competitor. To me, this is the best distinction between the two fields.

What would you consider the difference between art and design? Do you agree with the quote?



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