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  • Writer's pictureSophie van Os

The difference between an Art Academy and a Design Academy

What is the difference between an art academy and a design academy? This is a very solid and legit question to be asking yourself when you are new in the enchanted world of art and design. 

The short and simple answer to this is:

This is really the easiest way to put it. Let me further elaborate using a simple yet striking example.

An example of Art

Artist Phil creates a series of paintings where a red purse is the repeating subject, each time set up differently. He is inspired by his grandmother who carried this purse everywhere she went. Sadly, his grandmother passed away and so he made this series in memory of her.

What we see here is that the artist creates something from his inner passion that he wants to share with the world. But, if you see the series for the first time, you may not understand why the red purse is the repeating subject. Maybe you won’t even notice the purse, because your attention is set on another detail. What I’m trying to show you is that the artist's vision can be interpreted as something completely different by someone else. And could therefore raise questions with the audience. 

An example of Design

Designer Rachel works as a sales advisor in a shopping mall. One day an old lady comes to her and asks “Do you sell red purses?” Unfortunately, Rachel has to disappoint the lady because they only sell green, yellow and blue purses. The next day, another lady with grey hair comes to her and asks “Do you sell red purses?” This goes on and on until Rachel thinks to herself: “Wait a minute, I see a pattern here!” She points out that there is a certain need for this product from a certain target group. She decides to design a red purse and display it in the store window. You can only imagine what happens after… 

What we see here is that a problem or need is being solved by the designer. The question comes first, the solving after. 

So, what is the difference between an Art Academy and a Design Academy?

Design is all about problem-solving, finding a solution to a need or problem that is existent, latent or even non-existent. Some designers will go as far as creating a need for a problem that has yet to emerge. When it comes to artists however, they are all about raising questions, provoking or even getting people to think. The question you need to ask yourself is: are you a problem-solver or a provoker? 

The difference between an art and a design academy can be explained similarly . If you’re pursuing an art discipline like photography, graphic design or digital arts you should be ready to spend a lot of time in an atelier and find your individual, unique style. If you’re majoring in the design field you will become familiar with the term ‘design thinking’ in order to create solutions for problems while discovering different styles and concepts.  

If you’re not yet sure which path suits you best, then go to different college fairs, talk to students or find a school that provides programs in both the art as well as the design field. Find your passion and thrive! 


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