The Talent of Art & the Skill of Design

Web design is frequently mistaken for art. While some of the most innovative web designers are certainly artists in their own right, web design is not solely art or design. It is a balance of art and design.


design – – – arrangement of parts or details

art – – – objects subject to aesthetic criteria


When you break it down like that, it is clear that design is more technically-driven, while art is much more free-form.


After thinking about this for some time, I had a revelation with two more concepts that are often mistaken:


Talent Vs. Skill


Individuals haphazardly use these two words as one in the same. Like the “design” and “art” conflict, these two words connote vastly different meanings.


Talent – – – a special natural ability or aptitude

Skill – – – special ability in a task, sport, etc.; ability acquired by training

Talent connotes an innate, natural quality, while skill connotes one that is learned. This can be likened to our web design example above.

You might have graduated from one of the best design schools in this country, yet still fail to create a web design that is as innovate as someone with innate talent. Web design can be learned! Don’t get me wrong here. However, the art direction (as discussed in many of my other posts) will struggle to pull its weight. In contrast, the totally free spirit designer without formal training might very well struggle with form and technical implementations.


Back to Art Vs. Design

Based on the above definitions, it seems fair to make the following assumptions:


Art = Talent

Design = Skill


We know the “starving artist” as one that lives and breathes creativity in its most abstract and natural form. We refer to him as possessing an inherent quality for this craft. In contrast, the designer possesses a skill that he mastered in school, after years of formal training. We refer to him as possessing a measurable validation for his merit.


To play devil’s advocate (because that’s how I roll….), the lines between artist and designer are often muddied. Typically, the best website design work will have that effect on one’s analysis. Is it art or is it design?


Consider these words the next time you spit some commentary about a designer’s skill or an artist’s talent!