Utagawa Hiroshige and Jakob Nielsen: Art vs Design

I want to show you, as a little experiment, this piece of art and ask you what this is a picture of.

Can you tell what it is yet?

Utagawa Hiroshige: The Torch Shrine in Oki Province, no. 44 from the series  Pictures of Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces - University of  Wisconsin-Madison - Ukiyo-e Search

And I think most people would say this is a picture of two boats or ships at sea. In fact, it’s a Japanese artwork and the title is The Torch Shrine in Oki Province.

Now, where’s the shrine?

If you look very closely you can see the gate… the artist is kind of playing with us… this is acceptable if it’s art. If it’s design, it’s not acceptable.

That’s the difference between art and design: design has to have a functionality and you have to be able to use it easily. Art you can sort of ponder and think about and chuckle over and be inspired by and all these other things.

Design has to work, and there are immutable rules: things that are big and colourful in the foreground are more notable than things that are small and in the background and in muted colours.

Those rules were true back in 1853 and they are true now and they’ll be true in another hundred years.

Jakob Nielsen – The Immutable Rules of UX

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