Art vs Design Thinking


The lifeboat studio: a working space where artist can express their selves. A Good Design Manager should focus and understand all the creative practices, in order to operate within it effectively.

Design aims to impact on human life triggering emotions with remarkable impact that appeals to all five senses; to empower this purpose design thinking (DT) is a tool adopted to use empathy and anthropology to create experiences and generate opportunities.  According to Brown, T. (2009, p.4) DT works by combining what is attractive for people, technologically achievable and with a cost-effective orientation.

Strictly associated to intuition, creativity and fun, lateral thinking is a similar mechanism that stimulates new ideas from obstructed old concepts, by looking at things in a different and disruptive way, as De Bono, E.(1970) theorized.

Due to its nature of a creative practice design has been recently confused with art, with borders always more blurred, but it is crucial to establish a distinct separation between the two practices in order to fully appreciate them.

Charles Baudelaire defined art as a suggestive magic that embrace the object and the subject, the artist’s external world and the artist in its subjectivity. Art is passion and commitment and it is very personal; some artists want to provoke, some engage and some others just want to express themselves..

‘I don’t understand, therefore you are idiots’: this is the reaction that skepticals could have in front of a piece of contemporary art, but as Barthes, R. (1957, p. 39) suggested, it is pointless to be blind and dumb critics. On the contrary art has to be understood, because it contains some of the purest human essence. Poets and painters, amongst the other artists have always been keen on expressing into a fascinating way what most of people feel but cannot explain.

Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind  that art is has completely different characteristics and purposes from design, which is originally a mass production process concerned about form and function and obtained through industrial and technological operations. Design is human-centered and aims to create demand from people unconscious needs. A designer should seek for problems to be solved, without waiting for getting a commission, like artists might do. Moreover, design is strictly related to business and profit, and it uses its creativity and innovation to deliver an experience through a product, while art it is more conceptual and does not have always a meaning or a purpose (Art for art’s sake!).

Besides significant differences, artists and designers still have the same roots, and one of the most important things that they may have in common is that they are both educated to think differently.



Barthes, R.(1957) Mythologies. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Brown, T.(2009) Change by design. New York: Harper Collins.

De Bono, E.(1970) Lateral thinking. London: Penguin books.


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