Art with a Purpose – Cardinal and Cream
Art can be subjective, but it’s not always noticeable.
Some art is. Put a large watercolor landscape of a beach in your room, and it will be the first thing people compliment. Show a friend your sketch of a dog and he will praise your talent endlessly. Walk past the wellness center and you’ll end up smiling (or moaning) at the mom statue that watches over the grounds.
We are trained to notice and appreciate works of art like these. And it’s a good thing. We want to recognize beauty. But there is another branch of art to which we have become so numb that we often fail to even recognize it as art.
Today, art almost always stares us straight in the eye, and we don’t even see it – and, in this case, both meanings of virtually can apply.
Of course, I’m talking about graphics.
Well, of course, I notice the graphics, you may be thinking. These are the digital photos I see online or on campus flyers. And you’re not wrong. I thought the same thing, but it’s so much more than that. The graphic design is the Walmart logo, the lettering on a used t-shirt, the Buff City Soap sticker you received with your purchase. This is the latest IOS update that makes your home screen look the way it does. It’s all around us, and we don’t even realize it.
“If you think of a normal day, you see about 100 graphics,” said Toby Forehand, a digital communications student and graphic designer. “Somebody did the graphics on your coffee mug. And somebody designed your sweatshirt. There’s graphic art everywhere and digital art everywhere.
And the creators of these designs are even less recognised. Whether they go uncredited after creating a piece or their design isn’t even recognized as art, these designers stay in the background in ways that other artists don’t. When I first encountered the mom statue, the first words that managed to escape my lips (once I was able to close my gaping mouth) were “Who did that?” But give me a cup of hot chocolate or a fun pair of socks and I absolutely won’t recognize there was a person behind the design. For some reason, if a work of art is printed on something that is not designed primarily to show off that work of art (e.g. a mug or socks), I forget that there is had a creator behind. I guess many of you do too.
We consider products according to their purpose and usefulness. The purpose of a cup is to carry a hot drink. A useful mug carries a hot beverage well, perhaps with little or no spillage and without burning the hand holding it. We can introduce a third category –– appearance –– and evaluate according to that too (is the mug pretty?), but the first two criteria prevent us from appreciating the origin of the appearance of the product. Namely, the graphic designer.
Works of art like paintings and statues are not given the same standards as objects that we deem more practical. They only exist so that we can look at them, and it is therefore naturally that we have come to think of them in terms of their beauty and the talent that the artist must possess to make them. But we don’t see the same beauty in graphic designs, perhaps partly because they not only improve practicality, but also because they’re used to advertise.
“Graphic design is not considered art because it usually has a purpose and art is meant to be for expression,” Forehand said. “And so since graphic design is about selling something or promoting something, people don’t see it as art. I don’t agree with that.
By creating products that serve to promote brands or ideas, graphic designers do not have the freedom of expression that other artists have. Rather than manufacturing what they want, they need to listen to customer feedback and create something that appeals to the consumer. A graphic designer receives parameters, boxes that he must check to please the client. Their art is aimed at a specific audience and they incorporate knowledge of their audience into their design.
But, despite their limitations, there is still so much value and creativity to be found in graphic design. These artists embody the companies they represent, stepping into a brand’s headspace and pouring their heart and soul into crafting the perfect design for the company.
“You’re helping the company find a personality,” said sophomore graphic design student Faith Orr. “The one who will distinguish them from others.”
And that’s part of what makes graphic design so interesting. These artists engage with such a variety of demands; Orr herself created both a Valentine’s Day dog for the Lambda Chi Alpha candy gram event and a new logo for serious business just this semester. Constantly challenged in new and creative ways, designers must stay on their toes, never knowing what to expect.
It takes a certain kind of person to be willing to take on such a job and say, “Hey, I really like doing this art, but I’m also okay with not being credited or having my work overlooked. ” To do something for a customer, tell them it’s not quite what the brand is looking for and ditch it in favor of a whole new design. You need to be patient, dedicated and willing to compromise –– comfortable with handcrafted designs that will often go unnoticed.
Not all the time though. We usually don’t recognize the graphics we see, but after a while they start to sink into our minds.
Imagine a world without corporate logos or identifying graphics — just those boring, all-lowercase descriptors in the same font Target puts on its cookware: “Flour.” “Salt.” “Spoon.” No dipping red C’s with a chicken’s head inside, no golden arcs, no interlocking five Olympic rings. I can barely navigate the apps on my phone with all colored app covers. If suddenly Instagram wasn’t pink and yellow and more of a dull gray, I’d probably have an aneurysm. I definitely wouldn’t feel in the mood to post.
Our eyes are drawn to graphics, whether we realize it or not. We crave colorful things, fun things, beautiful things. And graphic designers offer creations that meet these desires. We may not notice these graphs immediately, but when we stop to really to see, the amount of creativity, personality and distinction present in every fast food logo and Powerpoint slide design is overwhelming. And it’s everywhere.
Graphic design may be convenient, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed.