art /architecture/ design/ engineering

The designer

The differences between designers, architects, engineers and artists are often not clearly understood. In practice and training, they often overlap. Out of respect to all, we have attempted to articulate the similarities and differences.

Though one would say that an architect designs, most architects do not define themselves as designers, associating themselves with a culture established over centuries, prior to the recognition of design as a discipline, and dealing in projects that are often of greater scale and longer time-frames than most design projects.

Both designers and engineers provide solutions to a precise problem and are focused on function. Engineers and designers have different approaches. Engineers base their work on science and technology. Designers base their work on human behavior; focusing on the eventual user experience, considering aesthetics, as well as social and cultural contexts. The work of the engineer is judged first and foremost by its technical performance (adherence to safety standards, regulations, capacity to withstand use, etc.). The work of the designer is judged on the basis of the ultimate user experience. It is important to note that engineers and designers work closely, hand-in-hand, and much of what is recognized as ‘design’ - from electronic devices, to trains, web applications and even some garments - would not have been possible without the unique talents of both professions applied collaboratively.

Both designers and artists are creative. Artists and designers share a set of skills including visual communications, use of materials and space, and aesthetics. In the case of art, the intention is self-expression; the artist personally determines the objectives of their work. In the case of design, the intention is to find a solution to the needs of a targeted set of users, often determined by others. Art is meant to provoke, to evoke, to spark ideas. Whereas design — which also can provoke, evoke and spark ideas — does so to help solve a problem. The designer, in their work, is accountable to both the user and broader society and their success is measurable, in the sense that the problem is either solved well or not. It is the designer’s responsibility to ensure that their designs are effective. The appreciation of art rests primarily on the person experiencing the work.