Is Sagmeister a designer?

I was chatting with my friend Stokes about Stefan Sagmeister. He said “I like him but I do not think It is helpful to consider him a designer. He is basically a conceptual artist who gets to practice in a totally different way.” I agreed — his way of being paid for work is just a new form of patronage.

This raises that old question: what distinguishes design from art?

My take: Design is only design if it is created for other people, and only incidentally for oneself. Art is the opposite: it is created for oneself, and only incidentally for others.

And what about engineering?

Engineering is for nobody — engineering is done purely to produce some objective outcome. Even when engineering involves human behaviors, it casts its problems in terms of behavioral outputs, rather than subjective qualities of experience, meanings or relationships. This is why Lean Startup and behavioral economics are so appealing to engineers — they are both ways to reframe design problems as engineering problems.

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