charles bukowski

Charles Bukowski said something that has me thinking about what a designer is and where they came from?

He wrote, “An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.” In Charles’ words, the intellectuals and artists are depicted as separate people. In common bigot thinking, artists are different and considered below the brilliant educated minds. However, when it comes to design, they really become one and the same.  This is a subject that I’ve seen create contradictions in designers; one that plagues them with the question of separating themselves as designer or artist.


There are designers that do not like calling themselves artists. They also will not say they create art. They will rather say it’s a solution to a problem, but like I’ve learn before, designers do not create solutions as much as they create responses to design briefs, otherwise why would there be thousands of different chair designs (it’s unnecessary to have so many for just a solution of needing a place to sit). Do you know what kind of person creates unnecessary things? Artists; not to bad mouth, but life is beautiful even without art. They create out of personal appreciation for something they only see and want to share with others, not from necessity.

“But wait Shaun, I am not an artist because what I create is useful and has functional meaning to its existence. What I create is necessary.” Ok, well before your brain spirals into a trap of emotional despair, first let me mention this.


Let’s assume for this one time that “Intellectuals,” if there ever was a stereotype, is one with deductive reasoning and only makes decisions based off rules and principles. Unlike an artist, the closest time an intellectual allows himself to think creatively is when he builds theories; theories that will have to be proven with necessary evidence. They are restricted to rules and cannot come to a final conclusion outside these rules. If you are familiar with design teachings, a lot of this sounds much like a designer, with the exception that designers often base their work off rules and principles, but do not restrict themselves to them.

A chair does not need to have four legs to be a chair. It could even have no legs and still be functional. There is also a possibility that an impossibly unsuitable chair to sit on could be designed, which leaves it without its appropriate function. People will stare at it wondering why and just appreciate that it’s a cool looking artistic rendition of a chair. Designers can do this.

As I understand it, intellects and artists can be one and the same.

To reiterate what the great Charles Bukowski once said, "It takes an intellectual to interpret an artist’s work and an artist to render a visual medium to simply describe the thoughts of an intellectual." They can be the same person and designers are an evolution from the separate train of thinking that artistic and intellectual backgrounds do not mix.