With what I am currently doing, an old riddle has surfaced again. What is the difference between graphic design and art? Is there a difference or is a graphic designer an artist?

A few years back I had a crucial experience when  I met a gallerist at a work function. She asked me what I do for a living and when I answered I am a graphic artist, she snidely remarked that would be a misnomer. All graphic designers are nothing more than would-be artists. She made a clear distinction between an artist and a designer and it was very obvious she didn’t hold the latter in high esteem.

I thought about this remark for a long time and after a lot of soul searching I figured out that for me personally the main distinction is the client. As a graphic designer I am commissioned to be creative within the framework of the wishes and financials of the client. It requires a lot of tact, but ultimately the client has the final say. To stay true to my soul  I have the option of choosing the clients I want to work for. My ones are mainly not-for-profit and small businesses who just set out. Along my career there were plenty of examples where I was happy I didn’t have to sign my name to the finished work (there are plenty of examples I am proud of too :).  You basically have to keep the customer happy and in the end he puts the bread on your table. If you are lucky you even have wine to go with it.

As an artist I am free. I can create whatever I feel like. No explanation needed. The only limitations are my skills and my ideas. I like to challenge both. Ultimately that is the reason I am an artist. Unfortunately if you want to survive on your art you have to convince others that you are the best otherwise you face starvation. There are so many truly gifted people out there and in the end the one who shouts the loudest will make it. This brings on a totally new set of problems. But one thing is for sure, independent you are not! So far, I have been fortunate enough that I could support my art habit with my other work.

But it is all becoming a bit blurry lately and I seriously have to re-think my double-tracked approach I lived comfortably with for such a long time. This is currently my biggest challenge. Any ideas?