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Chris Shuttleworth                                                                                                                                                                          CoP  Level  04   Could it be argued that Fine Art ought to be assigned more ‘value’ than Graphic Design?

The role of Graphic Design in society is to inform and communicate modestly and effectively, whether this is designing a flier targeted towards young adults which promotes a bar known for its quiet and chilled out environment; or instructions on how to cook the perfect chicken. Ambrose and Harris (2008) describe it as ‘taking ideas, concepts, text and images and presenting them in a visually engaging form through print, electronic or other media. It imposes order to facilitate and ease the communication process.’ Graphic design is, generally, taken for granted and goes unnoticed by the general public. The role of fine art is difficult to define, Tolstoy (1897) says that “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” Fine art is supposed to grab someone’s attention and tell them something that words could not, something profound and unique that only the artist is capable of thinking. Fine art is well documented and known by most and generally winds up and annoys the general public due to its expense and ambiguity. Al Capp (1909- 1979, An American Cartoonist) states that “[Abstract art is] a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.” This quote clearly describes the views that ‘low society’ practitioners have of what is considered ‘high society’. The goals of both these practices are, ultimately, to communicate an idea, the only difference is graphic design does it by speaking to the viewer as clearly as possible and fine art does it by soaking a vest in honey, hanging it from the ceiling and hoping the viewer finds the accompanying plaque which explains it using a clear sans serif typeface. Fine art tends to make the communication as confusing as possible and if the viewer cannot decipher the message then it is the viewers fault for not being able to think creatively or pick up on subtle visual metaphors and imagery. “Art is connotative, associative, implicative; it revels in ambiguity”. (Newark, 2002, p.28) This lack of information creates an elitist audience of people who claim to understand the deep meaning behind a naked man sat on a metal bench which is on fire (Roger Hiorns, 2005-10). The majority of people will watch this and not have any idea of what the point of it is, and rightly so, as it appears to be completely random and unrelated. The piece was part of British Art Show 7 in which ’the exhibition's motif is the idea that a comet is a harbinger of change, a measure of time and a marker of historical recurrence.” Around the same time Sheperd Fairey designed the iconic ‘HOPE’ poster which helped lead Barack Obama to win the election. The posters message was clear, it is a patriotic image of Barack Obama with the words ‘hope’, ‘progress’ or ‘change’ underneath. If the poster confused people it would have been Faireys fault for not

Chris Shuttleworth                                                                                                                                                                          CoP  Level  04   making a good piece of graphic design. The design of the poster wasn’t trying to be different and ‘crazy’ in comparison to any other graphic design around at the time, it was just trying to fulfill its purpose as well as possible. “Design should never say, ‘Look at me.’ It should always say, ‘Look at this.’ (David Craib, 2005,p.16) which is what the purpose of Fairey’s poster was, it was to draw attention to Barack Obama rather than Shepard Fairey. Whereas Hiorns installation piece was trying to stand out from all the other ambiguous, confusing pieces of art in the same exhibition, it was trying to sell the artists unique and revolutionary way of thinking rather than the meaning of the art.   Michael Barnard states that it is ‘perceived that art has more to say about a culture than graphic design’, this statement assumes that the art being made is commenting on the current culture and society, however Carroll (1999) states that ‘19th century artists –both in theory and practice- began to turn inward ; they became less preoccupied with capturing the appearance of nature and the manners of society than with exploring their own experiences’. This is supported by the works of Emin, Whiteread, Hirst and other British artists who are more concerned about selling themselves as a unique and quirky individual and producing work that only they can understand properly. Opposing this, the graphic designer has the task of designing to please a client, they have to step outside their comfort zone and be skilled in multiple disciplines to do what is necessary to successfully complete the set brief. ‘Graphic Design can be characterized as problem solving, while art is creative’ (Barnard, 2005). The graphic designer has full control over the meaning of what they produce and the design and tone of voice would identify the suitable audience. In a lot of cases of fine art the artist doesn’t have control over the meaning of their work and often say that the ‘viewer can make their own interpretation of the work’. This statement is admitting that the communication is not clear. Most people would struggle retrieving any meaning from this piece by Anish Kapoor entitled ‘Mother as a Mountain’. The publics’ reaction, including mine, would be confusion and dismissal. The accompanying statement reads: “the form of the structure resembles a mountain, while the tear shaped hole at the top evokes a vagina. Many of Kapoor’s works are concerned with the female body as a universal symbol of creativity and the site of erotic pleasures” (The 20th Century Art Book, Phaidon 1996). The critic that writes about the art has as much power over the definition of the piece as the artist does, if their interpretation seems to make sense. The idea of ‘value’ suggests that fine art contributes more to society and culture than graphic design. I think that the difference between the two here is that art is

Chris Shuttleworth                                                                                                                                                                          CoP  Level  04   ‘entertainment’ whereas design is a job, a necessity. Fine art is like going to the opera and graphic design like going to the doctors, the sort of thing you take for granted and would only notice when it wasn’t there, and the opera being something people don’t need, but like to go for entertainment. For example, it would be difficult to navigate a new place if there was no clear signage, to assemble furniture without instructions or know what a companies products are like without professional branding. But the fact that there is a skull with 8,601 on it doesn’t really help or bother the common man. A fine artist would argue that Graphic Design should be assigned less value because designers are ‘sell outs’ that create mass-produced work solely for money, and profits are more important than the idea or message. The problem with this argument is that Damien Hirst made 45.8 million at auction and Jean-michel Basquiat made 54.3 million along with many other artists that were lucky enough to get noticed by the right people and have a shot at making some money Clive Bell (1881- 1964) says that the ‘value of art lies in its ability to produce a distinctive aesthetic experience in the viewer’, he suggests that the correct combination of lines and colours has the power to provoke an emotional experience which can be ‘acknowledged by "all sensitive people".’ This definition of what art should be is again creating a divide between people that don’t understand the emotional qualities of the art and people that claim to understand it. This divide is a big difference between art and design, where design is for the people, art is for an elite group of pretentious people. In 1993 Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty organized the K foundation award in which they invited the general public to vote for the worst artist out of the nominees for the Turner Prize. The artist the public voted the worst was Rachel Whiteread who was the artist that the critics chose to win the Turner Prize for making a concrete cast of the inside of a house. I think it is too easy to think of Art as poor Graphic Design because they are two separate disciplines and both fields are way too broad to make a completely fair comparison. There will be some graphic design that doesn’t communicate a message very clearly, for example futurism and deconstructivism can be very unclear and confusing, and there are artists that don’t shroud their work in ambiguity and actually have something to say that can be understood, such as Scott King, Alistair Mckinven and Barbara Kruger. It is difficult to say whether one should be assigned more value than the other because they are two separate practices that have separate disciplines. If one suddenly disappeared it would be graphic design that the majority of people would notice missing. However I also think that fine art should be valued because there are some interesting ideas and work being produced, the only problem being that it needs explaining, but, nevertheless, it makes people think and entertains, interests and fascinates those who enjoy it. In conclusion, if we are comparing the two, Graphic Design should be assigned more value because it can inform, educate and instruct on a level that can be understood by everyone. It can also express personal thoughts and ideas by using type and image which communicate much more clearly than fabric, latex, a taxidermied goat, cellophane, tin foil and a shark.  


Chris Shuttleworth                                                                                                                                                                          CoP  Level  04  

Reference List Al Capp., 1909-79., Quotation. [online] Available at: < nted-sold/222847.html > [Last accessed 12 May 2012] Ambrose, G & Harris,P., 2008. The Fundamentals of Graphic Design. West Sussex: AVA. Anish Kapoor, 1985., Mother As Mountain. Available at: < > [Last accessed 12 May 2012] Barnard, M., 2005. Graphic Design as Communication. Oxon: Routledge. Carroll, N., 1999. Philosophy of Art. Oxon: Routledge. Editors of Phaidon Press., 2007. 20th Century Art Book. London: Phaidon Press. Fishel, C., 2005. 401 Design Meditations: Wisdom, Insights, and Intriguing Thoughts from 150 Leading Designers. Minneapolis: Rockport Publishers. Modern Art Concept., The Art Story. [online] Available at: <> [Last accessed 12 May 2012] Newark, Q., 2002. What is Graphic Design?. Sussex: RotoVision. Quigley T.R, Summary: ‘The Aesthetic Hypothesis’ Clive Bell., [online] Available at: <> [Last accessed 12 May 2012] Tolstoy, L., 1995. What is art?. London: Penguin Group.


Should Fine Art be assigned more value than Graphic Design?  

Essay for Context of Practice

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