Thomas Sherman

Prof Pat

Art History 85

October 2, 2012

Art or Design


The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. Written in black, red, purple, and yellow in an insular majuscule script, the Book of Kells is highly decorated. Which brings us to our main question, the whole reason for this paper, is the Book of Kells art or design?

            First off we need to figure out art and design. According to the dictionary, art is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.” Design’s definition “A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.”

            Well that really didn’t help at all; by those definitions the Book of Kells is art and design, art because it displays human creative skill and imagination, and design because of the exact layout of the text and flourishing patterns. This leaves us a dilemma; can you have one without another? I went to a art museum and saw a blank canvas with three seemingly random slashes in it, the first thing I asked myself was, how in the hell is this art? Then I realized the idea behind art, it is designed to invoke an emotion…. What did I just say, art is designed.

            Ok so if art is designed, is design art? Well let’s look really close at something that would be considered design, lets say someone is coming up with a new product and they have to draw up designs for them, they are using there ability to draw to make something that works but is also visually appealing. By drawing something that is visually appealing it can be argued that they are trying to evoke an emotional response. But wait isn’t that art? Well isn’t that full circle?

            I know what you’re thinking, that’s just a very basic argument, focusing only on the basic ideas of each definition. Well it kind of has to be, the more you argue each side, the more they look like each other. Art is used in designing things and design is used when making art. But of course everyone is open to his or her own opinion, and I don’t think there will ever be only one answer.

            So again I say that you can’t have one without the other, the lines blur the more you try to find a difference. It’s like zooming in on a picture, no mater how high the megapixel, when you get close you don’t know what you’re looking at. The Book of Kells has to be both in my opinion for the same reason.




One comment

  1. Close… actually can be both but we ned to know you have actually looked and defined or redefined your concept of both areas. I firmly believe that it is the basis of design using art as one of the persuaders of the objective. If it was modern day could they have used a video? Then would it be the craft of the video??? The intricacies? The art is there to emphasize the words. It has a purpose and is used to accomplish a goal. Design is driving the bus on this using whatever is necessary and available to deliver the message.

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