Am I not an artist?

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“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works: if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

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Can a Designer be an artist and as such, be allowed the licence of said profession?

I ask because the other day I noticed a social media comment about a Packaging Design that I had created. The commenter reckoned the design was a rip-off of another company’s Packaging Design.

Now then, at this point I should add two things. Firstly, there were elements that were similar, a flourish here and a flourish there, but it certainly wasn’t a ‘rip-off’ and secondly, the Design that I was supposed to have copied was also a Packaging Design that I had created for a different client.

Okay, so I posted to let the commenter know that I was the designer of both packs, that I liked to think I had a style that was unique to me, and that his recognising the two was actually a compliment.

He didn’t entirely see it this way but it got me thinking. If you saw a painting with a friend in one gallery and then another painting elsewhere in a different gallery and commented to your friend how similar the two paintings were in style, if the friend pointed out they were both by the same artist you would undoubtedly go, “ah, that explains it then’, and not consider this painting a rip-off of the other.

So, does the gallery visitor recognise and allow for an artist’s personal style and flourish whereas the consumer does not?

I appreciate that a Pack design is personal to the company whose product is contained within rather than to the creator of the pack without and is created specifically to stand out in an ocean of competing packs. So perhaps this alone separates it from a painting on a gallery wall. Still, was the artist truly painting for himself? Or was his art motivated by the demands of a gallery, the need to be commercial, the current vogues etc and does he not need his paintings to stand out, not just against the competition, but against his own work. So is an artist really that different from a designer?

We are not talking about copies here, we are talking about a style, a similarity in brushstroke, something recognisable, perhaps in a use of colour, or a single small element. Perhaps almost intangible, and on occasion, such as the consumer whose comment started this post off in the first place, something that you notice and it seems so strong you are drawn to comment. (I should also add that nobody else has ever made this connection, or at least if they did it didn’t drive them to comment.)

I fully appreciate that this post might seem pretentious, particularly to those that see packaging as little more than an inconvenient container, but this is not just my profession, it is my passion and as such it means a great deal to me. After all, without the artist’s own individualism what do we have but a random set of images with no interconnectivity and no heart.

How is the consumer supposed to relate to heartless packaging, I beseech you? 🙂

So I will continue to create Packaging that is both tailored to the individual client and with a style that is my own because I believe this is the right was to work and if people continue to point out similarities I will thank them for their compliment and praise them for their perceptive eye.

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“You can have an art experience in front of a Rembrandt… or in front of a piece of graphic design.” Stefan Sagmeister

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