Art Versus Design

Don’t confuse art and design in visual worship. What’s the difference?


Len Wilson tackles this complicated question in a very thoughtful way in his post Why Most Visual Art in Worship Isn’t Really Art. The title might sound a bit combative, but that’s not his tone at all. He writes:

Designers create solutions. Artists create questions.

That’s a really good way to describe it, I think. And as I read it, I realized that most of what I contribute to the visual aspect of our worship is design, while what I contribute musically is art. The difference is significant.

Len clarifies each. On art:

Art is capable of moving people to (re)consider a big idea because it is divergent – rather than pushing people to a single “point,” it is a kind of thinking that explores many possibilities, which results in a kind of learning that is different than the convergence of a single answer.

On design:

A designer’s fundamental goal in life is to solve problems. I wouldn’t have made this statement ten years ago, because at one time I equated design and visual fashion. But while design usually has a visual component, it is not simply a “look” or trend, regardless of its application. It exists to help us do something better, whether as an interface to a smartphone or a means of processing information in someone’s presentation.

This isn’t to say that one is superior or inferior. They both serve different purposes. But what does all of this have to do with worship? Read Len’s post for that answer, especially what he says about the art of Jesus. Excellent stuff.

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