What is "art" to you?
I asked this question to a few people today after seeing Mr. Alan Cooper's brief thoughts on art's role in design, or the lack thereof. The answers I received aligned with his definition of art being personal expression.
But what of art's relation to design? Is there a place for art in terms of software, web, or end-to-end experience design or, as Mr. Cooper states, does this idea essentially differ and distract from the true needs of design work?
If you think there is a component of “art” in the job of the interaction designer (or UX designer) then you and I have two different world views of what this whole profession, discipline, practice is about. 1— Alan Cooper (@MrAlanCooper) July 28, 2018
I'm on the fence of agreeing here, but by the time I'm done laying out these thoughts, I may find my side.
On one hand, user experience and interaction design should be more focused on function, purpose, consistency, and usability than personal expression, especially if personal expression breaks any of those various tenets. After all, the goal of said design is not to make something beautiful, but to make something that helps someone else achieve their goals; be it a product, service, or a touchpoint within them.
On the other hand, I have this nagging feeling that saying there is no component of art in the job is too black-and-white. Is there no possibility of a person or business purposefully attempting to express their values?
Art is subjective through-and-through. How art is perceived is expected to differ from one person to the next. A painter may place a red dot on a white canvas and consider it art, maybe even their masterpiece, but its public appreciation and value is organically created by how it connects to these outside observers and how it makes them feel. Mr. Cooper goes on to say that art doesn't really play a role in making users happy, however, here we see that the personal connection to a piece of art could in fact evoke a positive reaction.
When viewed in this manner, I think that design shares a similar fate. The value of a design is ultimately determined by those using it, and the reactions could be both positive or negative. What it boils back down to then is the goal of art and design.
Do you design products or services for personal appreciation or is there a hope that they will positively connect with your customers? That your customers understand, see, and value the design as you intended? If so, I no longer see any reason why we couldn't say there's room for art in design.