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ESSAY: All art is derivative.

MJ Maxam
December 22, 2017

If you look, you will find art...

If you think about it, inspiration has a pretty material source. Observation, it appears, provides the resource for most artistic expression; informing our intellect in a way that results in interpretive mash-ups of external influence. It could be easily suggested that “All art is derivative.”

The medium influences how the message is perceived, ergo, the message must leverage the greatest strengths the medium has to offer.

Whether of God's great Creation or man’s eternal endeavor, much like a computer needs programming to produce this page, every artists takes in data, whether natural or man-made, and employs a medium to expresses a communicable interpretation. As such, inspiration is more about where, than how, you find it; more about how, and where, it is expressed.

Much as art is an interpretive expression of external stimulus, design is more like making a good stew. While design may be influenced in much the same way as creative art, design carries goal-sets that are more pragmatic, even while remaining equally interpretive. Where the creative artist can choose his medium and methods of production, the designer must work within the limited constraints of the chosen medium and the message required to convey.

Yet it is within design constraints that the most innovative and artistic creative interpretations have been inspired, produced, and mass-distributed. And it is in this mass dissemination of these “designed” materials where the story gets interesting. While Gutenberg invented the printing press in the West, it was the artisans who crafted the letters and engravings who were responsible for the resounding popularity of the literature produced. And now, even as technologies surmounted the limitations of mechanical reproduction, it still remains the task of the designer to package information in a manner that attracts, holds and informs attention. For designers, the art yet remains in the craft.

And the opportunities for innovative design are only increasing, as are applications for traditional design, as print reproduction has advanced in quality and affordability to the point where color, once expensive, is now an increasingly important part of any successful business effort. Yet it is the realm of digital information transfer that has provided the most interesting opportunities for the designer. Where print production projects are required to be final at their time of production, the ability to instantly iterate now allows for continuing refinement. Of course design in every medium must necessarily conform to communications objectives at the time of publishing, but electronic means allow for a kind of flexibility heretofore unavailable.

So what does it mean to successfully exploit these medium. Thankfully, the processes of design and production have been established for years, and continue require effective planning, an understanding of the audience, and a solid grasp of the opportunities and limitations inherent within each chosen media. Beyond that, the answer is somewhere in the stars, among the imagination of all the designers now striving within this new medium. Even a designer could not have designed a better design opportunity, and it is endeavoring in this space where one can find myriad experiments among successful solutions. At the risk of sounding obvious, optimal quality within the printed space had become relatively static. In the digital space, however, opportunities for interactivity has expanded design’s responsibility within the spheres of communication. There is simply more for a designer to do.

In conclusion, and as a pioneering digital artist and designer, there are great opportunities for design expression in both the tangible and virtual realms, as long as one remembers that where fine art may be happy with aesthetic satisfaction and recognizable interpretation, design requires that specific ingredients be assembled in a certain way that will result in the palatable consumption of the information provided… the stew. If it is bad, it is recognizable in the first bite, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?


BRIGHTIDEADESIGN has it's foundation deep in the roots of fundamental communication. Whether it is understanding the graphic styling represented in Soviet-era posters or street-art; or, keeping current in the latest trends on "the Interwebs", we delight in understanding the methods of effective communication and putting this knowledge to work preparing your message... and generating the interest you are seeking.

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MJ Maxam

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