J. Baum – Book of Kells

Book of Kells; Art or Design?

The Book of Kells is a manuscript book in latin, that contains the four gospels of the new testament. It was put together by monks from a monastery in Ireland. The book is full of large drawings from earlier versions of the bible and includes some western calligraphy. The debate goes on if the Book of Kells is art or design. Even though one considers art and design similar, they are completely different. Art is purposeful in the artists mind, because it’s for them to express themselves and show their feelings. Design on the other hand effects the viewers because it draws their attention, it isn’t self expression. Hume and Kant supply their views on design and art to explain what the book is mostly comprised of, art, design, or both.

Kant believes our reason influences our experiences. He looked for the beauty in art, “He claimed that judgments of taste are both subjective and universal. They are subjective, because they are responses of pleasure, and do not essentially involve any claims about the properties of the object itself. (What matters is not the picture I see; rather it is the pleasing effect of the picture on me.) On the other hand, aesthetic judgments are universal and not merely personal. That’s because in a crucial way they must be disinterested” (Rowan). When people view a painting or a piece of art, they enjoy it more when it can relate to themselves. Something is more sentimental when it has a personal connection or experience. It makes the viewer think of personal experiences they went through that generally effects how they judge a piece of art. If they don’t feel any connection at all, most likely they won’t enjoy it as much. Personal experiences really effect judgment because it creates a relationship with internal feelings.

Hume believes that the human thoughts are mostly about feelings, not thought. When someone wants to display an emotion, they can use art to show their feelings. Hume believes that the idea of art comes from an “idea raised in us” (Gracyk). Our passion is painted for people to connect to similar emotions. People connect with sentimental emotions, therefore they will build up an attachment with the art. Hume thinks sentiments “exists merely in the mind,” because they’re built up about feelings, and humans think feelings are important. Artists usually paint to express their emotions. They create abstract lines and ideas to fabricate tender thoughts they think about. These thoughts influence the people viewing the art because they too feel for the artist, they understand too the emotions that are poured into the pieces of art.

Both Hume and Kant believed in the enlightenment period ideas. Kant writes, “No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment” (MN state). They both considered, and encouraged people to be intellectual about everything. They both agree on many ideas dealing with art. Even though some of their ideas are different they clearly agree that intellectual and reasoning is needed in art, which is design.

Being a graphic designer I always take my art, then place where it looks attractive, which is design. Design is very important because it is what attracts the human mind and makes the viewers pleased to look at ones work. I believe the design comes first following art. It ties together because without one another something wouldn’t be complete. There is craftsmanship and beauty, but then design that is pleasing to the eye.

The Book of Kells began as a design but slowly built up into art. It is more widely viewed and understood now, than back when it first came out. The Book of Kells had a lot of time, effort and planning put into it. I believe over time the Book of Kells began as design and developed into art. It needed to be designed to fit all the art pieces and calligraphy. People today can view the Book of Kells and have different interpretations and have different reactions then the Monks did when they looked at it. So in a nutshell Art and Design are both two very important elements in the Book of Kells, but Design was the main objective then art followed.


Work Cited

Cummings, Michael. “Good Design – Form and Function – Art versus Design – Design –

User Experience – UX Design.” User Experience – UX Design – What Matters To Interaction Design Professionals. 04 May 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://uxdesign.com/design/article/good-design/54&gt;.

”Immanuel Kant.” N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.rowan.edu/open/philosop/clowney/Aesthetics/philos_artists_onart/kant.htm&gt;.


Gracyk, Ted. “Hume’s Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”Stanford 

Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-aesthetics/&gt;.


One comment

  1. JB,

    Good points. We need to realize that design is expression it is your expression of a successful solution to a problem. The problem here is “how do we spread Christianity to the world in a means the general populace can understand??” well we will be sure to inundate the manuscript with illustrations that is how we will do it.
    Well written good reference and good use of those references. However we need to get to the facts in the abstract and go forward building from there.

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