Authored by Marlene Richey
Last edited: 2/11/2019
“Design theory involves an understanding of the tangible elements including form, space, proportion, color, scale, texture, structure (grid), composition, line, shape and volume and how to arrange them to achieve balance, rhythm, pattern, hierarchy, emphasis, and unity. Design theory, blended with a purpose or problem to solve, results in effective design solutions.” —alvalyn.com
In part one and part two of my series, Designing a Jewelry Collection, I discussed how to pull together a cohesive, concise, clear and consistent body of work and the value of knowing some basic design parameters. In this third article about how to design a collection, I am going to cover the differences and similarities between being a designer and being an artist. My goal is to help you understand where you are and how to capitalize on your career decision. I want to emphasize that sometimes you might be more in touch with your design side and at others with your artist side. That’s okay. Decide what works best for you and go for it.
Let me start by saying, I am not trying to promote your choice of being an artist or being a designer. The two can work in tandem and are not mutually exclusive. I feel both directions are equally honorable. The subject of the differences between art and design has been debated for a very long time and to some degree there are no definitive answers, only thoughts, suggestions and opinions.
One thing is for certain, the approach to making or creating a piece of work is different for an artist and a designer. Artists start out by creating something that expresses their thoughts and emotions to eventually share with the public. Designers start out with the ultimate customer in mind and create something that will fill their needs and that has a purpose. As British designer John O’Nolan states, “Good art is interpreted. Good design is understood.”
Design doesn’t need to be interpreted. Art can be interpreted from many different directions and viewpoints. Viewers bring their own interpretation and perspective to the piece. “Ensuring that user interactions are as smooth as possible is good design,” according to a post on the subject by the web design firm Webpage Fx. “This is what design is: It’s art with expectations, patterns and consistency. It’s art meeting science.”
"I read the other day a comparison of art and design. There are definitive shared characteristics, from their creative nature to relying upon the visual senses for interpretation. Both entertain. Both connect with their audience. But the author, John O’Nolan, worked very hard to point out their differences. Art inspires and is interpreted, while good design motivates and needs to be understood in a universal way. Makes sense."
"Still, I wonder a bit about his contention that art is the result of talent, i.e. ‘natural ability,’ while design is a skill that is simply taught and learned. I think each is a combination of both. Da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa the first time he picked up a brush. He perfected his skills according to his natural abilities. And the great designers of today’s visual communications certainly have perfected their skills – but they couldn’t succeed without talent."
"Artist or designer, blank canvas or paper, talent or skill – it all must be drawn from within." —Greg Daake
The most important thing to remember and acknowledge is that both artists and designers work in the visual arts. They both need to have a strong background and develop a set of skills to create their work. Both artists and designers are highly creative. And they need to understand and honor their differences and similarities.
Alvalyn Lundgren, in her blog says, “Design involves specific criteria, research and study, along with extreme creativity. Where an artist can begin with a blank canvas and creatively pursue a serendipitous route to an end result, a designer begins with a set of criterion and creates within specific boundaries all the way from concept through completion.”
People often use the term “designer” with absolutely no idea what a designer is or what one does. And yet they use the term to describe what they are doing…they call themselves “jewelry designers.”
With the thoughts and ideas I have shared with you, let’s keep this dialogue going. Please let me know what you are thinking. I want to discover more about the concept and the use of these two words which are casually flung around so often. I would love to create a continuous forum about what jewelry designers and jewelry artists do, feel and experience, and how they express themselves for us all to share. Please feel free to reach out to me and let me know your thoughts and experiences.
Let me know if there are questions I haven’t answered. Are there perspectives that have not been covered? What areas would you like to hear more about? This is just the beginning!
Marlene Richey started a jewelry design firm with no prior business experience. During the 35 years since, Marlene has run a wholesale business and a retail gallery, participated in hundreds of craft and trade shows, and traveled across America selling the pair’s jewelry. She has served on the boards of SNAG, CJDG, Maine Craft Association, Metalwerx and WJA. Marlene consults with artists, teaches workshops and was professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Maine College of Art. She is also a contributor to various jewelry and craft publications and wrote an award-winning book on running a jewelry business, Profiting by Design. Have a business question for Marlene? Leave it in the comments section below and she’ll get back to you.