An artist at heart and a designer by choice. As an amateur artist who likes to doodle on the back of her notebooks, draw Warli figures and paint with acrylics, I decided to pursue a career in UX Design and Research. I am a young UXer trying to explore the fascinating world of Experience Design. In this article, I wanted to draw comparisons between these two different aspects of my life and analyze how similar or different art and UX are.
Art is subjective but UX should be objective.
An artist creates art to express what they feel. It could be created with something specific in mind, in an effort to convey something, however, it could be interpreted in two distinct ways by two different people. In fact, this is the beauty of art, a single creation could appeal to or motivate people in various ways. On the contrary, the aim of a successfully designed experience is to get people to do exactly what a designer wants. This is the very definition of good UX, that the user behaves as expected by the designer. A well-designed experience doesn’t leave room for misguided interactions.
Art is meant to invoke emotions and UX is meant to delight users.
I am reminded of Julia Robert’s character from the movie Mona Lisa Smile. After showing them a Jackson Pollock painting she says to her art history students, “You are not required to write a paper. You are not even required to like it. You are required to consider it. It’s your only assignment today.” To me, it represents a powerful idea that art in any form can invoke different emotions and feelings. On the other hand, a UX designer thinks about crafting interactions that delight users, and not exasperate or confuse them. Of course, design that can captivate your audience is always a desirable winner.
Art is created and design is consumed.
Thinking about the creative process in case of art and UX, I realized both have opposing approaches. As an artist, I want to show my unique style and personality through my artwork. As a designer, I am concerned about the design’s purpose, users and the context. If an artwork were to become the social object in a conversation, the artist takes the center stage. On the other hand, if a good design (say an addictive video game, a can’t-do-without mobile app or a pleasant visit to a coffee shop) are being discussed, the talk is often about what is cool about it. As a designer, I know that the cool factor was achieved by putting user needs on a pedestal. In both the cases, rightly so, that’s what makes it great.
Tools vary but both need hard work.
While my art requires pencils, brushes, paints, palette, canvas and even an old rag, for me to take on the role of designer, a laptop and some paper are often enough. For me, art is about sourcing good materials, trying new techniques and mostly personal joy and satisfaction, whereas UX is about formal or informal learning, hands-on experience, and valuable feedback. The tools are obviously different but in mastering both the skillsets, the things that remain constant are practice and hard work. In short, the more work you put into it, the better you get at it.
Both are essential.
Making art and designing experiences have both enriched my life in different ways. As a designer who swears by the user-centered design process, I have become more empathetic as a person. Practicing empathy is a core skill that makes you a great UX designer, and it has positively impacted me when connecting with new people from different backgrounds. Life is busy, and it may seem ironic, but you need to specifically make time to do what you love. I’ve come to realize how important it is to do what makes you happy, paint in my case, if only once in a while.