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Fine arts vs. Graphic arts majors

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by mark in tx, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. mark in tx

    mark in tx Very Active Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Harker Heights, Texas
    Just having a thought that is starting to come together and wondered what y'all might think.

    I have hired school trained graphic artists, some have had Fine Arts degrees, some have had Graphics Arts degrees. It seems that I get better creativity from the Fine Arts graduates vs. the Graphic Arts graduates. I have to be a lot more directive with the Graphic artist, and they seem to spend more time with process. What would seem to be the most odd thing, is that the Graphic Artists take more time to get anything done than the Fine Arts do.
    I don't have them in head to head competition or anything like that, but I just have noticed over time I have to do a lot more supervising with the Graphic Artist vs. the Fine arts.

    Has anyone ever noticed this before? Do you have a way of dealing with it?

    I apologize if I haven't brought this out clearly, kind of thinking out loud.
  2. fresh

    fresh Very Active Member

    May 16, 2011
    Graphic art is about know how to layout a page, use tools, a bit of color theory. Its not really about being creative. On the other hand, in fine art, its not about being able to nudge the layer over a nano inch so it looks perfect. A fine artist is taught to be creative and expressive.

    I have an AAS in photography. You know what I know a LOT about? How to use a camera, develop film, choose the right iso for the situation, how to expose the film for optimum results. The focus wasn't on making unique, creative, thoughtful images. We were taught how to make technically perfect images, regardless of their subject. Of course the creativity was encouraged, but I don't think our grades depended on it.

    So this is why you have a hard time with graphic artists not being innovative enough for you.
  3. AKProbeGT

    AKProbeGT Member

    Jan 17, 2008
    Hanover, PA

    We are a 2 man operation and hired our first graphic designer this summer. In getting to know her I realized she really had no fine art ability. Myself, I got into graphic design because of my fine art ability. I had to let her go after about a month because she had no creativity and not even a great eye for layouts. She knew the tools and could do the work if I told her exactly what to do but that was it. We will only hire designers that have some fine art ability from now on.
  4. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    My take on it is that you're comparing apples and oranges. Art and Design are not the same thing, therefor Fine Artists and Graphic Designers are not the same people.

    Fine Artists tend to think creatively.
    Graphic Artists think technically.

    Fine Artists accept imperfections if it enhances the overall flow and rhythm of what they're doing.
    Graphic Artists seek perfection. Perfect alignment, perfect kerning, perfect shapes.

    Fine Artists "feel" their work.
    Graphic Artists "see" their work.

    They've both got their place and neither is better than the other, you're just dealing with two entirely different mind sets. It's the reason you hear old time sign painters complaining about printer monkeys. Both are capable of producing phenomenal work, they just both see the "correct" solution from a different reality.

    Here's a short article I had bookmarked about the difference. http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/09/the-difference-between-art-and-design/
  5. John Butto

    John Butto Very Active Member

    Jan 9, 2007
    Fine arts without question.
  6. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

    Feb 14, 2007
    i took art courses, graphic art course and commercial art courses. art courses gave you media and you just created your project from what you had and brought it to life from your mind. the graphic commercial arts courses gave you tools and taught you how to bring to life the customers already created art. i think you need a happy medium of both to make the jobs work
  7. OldPaint

    OldPaint Major Contributor

    i am probably more attuned to the "fine arts" side but do "graphics". my background is #1. natural inborn art ability, then i was trained as a DRAFTSMAN, then wound up going to PENN STATE as an art major. pottery being my main area of interest. the drawing/painting/ design portion of classes was easy for me as i had most of these skills and just was given a chance to make them better. iam sure there are fine, non talented graphic artists..........but so many claim to be such, as to muddy the waters with their ineptitude, give "graphic artists" a bad name.
  8. fresh

    fresh Very Active Member

    May 16, 2011
    We hired a graphic design student last year to help with production & planned on having him eventually do some design work. Almost a year goes by (he only worked one day a week) and he is no more useful to us than the day he started, so we let him go.

    A few months ago a girl came in looking for a job. I needed someone to help answer phones, file, and just be a general helper. Guess who is now working 4 days a week, doing fantastic design work, and is able to do many jobs start to finish without any assistance? The 19 year old, who not only didn't go to college for design, she wasn't even a traditional high school student. Just a creative, inquisitive individual. We are soooo lucky she came in.

    We can teach software, we can't teach creativity and drive.
  9. Joe Diaz

    Joe Diaz Very Active Member

    :goodpost: I agree 100%

    The trick would be to find someone who straddles the fence and is a bit of both, and if you can't find one, have a Graphic Artist and a Fine Artist work together so a little bit of their counterpart rubs off on them. Not only would you want to allow them to learn from each other you would want to encourage it. Because thinking creatively strengthens how a technical minded person approaches a problem, and thinking technically helps a creative person achieve better results. Having the mentality that one is superior to the other will get you nowhere fast.
  10. MikeD

    MikeD Active Member

    Oct 25, 2011
    I think it comes down to someone's ability to identify and solve challenges. Then, if they are given freedom; LOTS of freedom, creativity will follow. I feel like there are two distinct veins of creativity in my life- at work I need to use creativity to solve all sorts of problems; when I get home I use it to make fine art. I never turned on a computer until AFTER college, but I could make some neat art. After I graduated, I went back and learned the basic graphic art tools- then I really learned how to use them on the job. A job for a graphic artist is like grad school.

    I guess the fine art studies give more freedom and the graphic art studies are really more about building commercial art with industry standard tools. Fine artist can do what ever they want while Graphic Artists have to do whatever their client wants them to do.
    Usually, a Graphic Artist would be given direction from an Art Director.
  11. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Houston TX
    i had two trained graphic artists and one post grad architectural student working under me and i had a lot of issues getting a good balanced design quick or for that matter getting scores of "maybe this" quick sketches. a fine artist can see what's wrong with a design in seconds and can be prolific. the graphic artist just seems to clean up and tick around endlessly for hours while there's this massive glaring design issues right smack in the middle of the project. i tried to sit them down a few times to discuss elemental design (mass, ratio, contrast, etc) but it was difficult.

    me: professional fine artist since 12 years old, grew up with a professional/bread winnner/artist/mom.

    i'd say get a fine artist to block out designs and work directly with clients. then have a graphic artist process the design (pantone, layout, scaling, print production).
  12. omgsideburns

    omgsideburns Very Active Member

    Apr 15, 2008
    Artbot is on the money.

    The program I am in for graphic design has only included one or two art based classes. Most of it has been technical stuff. Luckily I have experience. =\
  13. mark in tx

    mark in tx Very Active Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Harker Heights, Texas
    Pat you really nailed what I was thinking but unable to express.

    Joe, I think that putting them together is going to be the approach I need to take.

    Overall, I'm still just a sign shop, but I am seeing the need to approach the idea of an Art Department in the vein of an Ad Agency.

    Thank you all, I am thinking of this in a new way, and seeing great potential.
  14. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

    Mar 12, 2005
    New England
    Most of the graphic design students I run into want to design web graphics or games or some such stuff, not signs.
    Back when it was all handpainted we always cringed when a "fine artist" was in the shop, we said they instead of painting
    a sign they painted a picture of a sign. Then again the best sign guy I worked for started as a fine artist and ended up going back to it in retirement.
    I was trained as a sign painter, and always was involved with art in one way or another, but don't consider myself an artist.
  15. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

    Sep 27, 2010
    Mid TN
    That seems to be the biggie there. Even just print work is taking the back burner it seems. I believe some sort of "marriage" of the two is in order. I'm decent enough to do sketches and creativity and I'm proficient enough with technical aspects of production (particular with regard to needle and thread) to be able to translate that design to a finished product and that seems to work.
  16. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    With the content in this thread, is it any wonder why there is so much "artistic" garbage littering our countryside..... and the other countries around the world ??

    We are rewarding degrees and achievement awards to those who basically can't create or even duplicate a pencil line drawing right in front of their face. It's one thing to know the ins-n-outs, but it's another thing to know the fundamentals and have somewhere from within...... to pull from.

    Again, this was discussed not too long ago, but someone trained in the right atmosphere can come out of school and be a blast at graphic designs and not be able to draw a stick figure. If they were taught the basics of 2D, color, art theory, light and dark, and some minor elements, they can go far. The problem is, most of the profs don't know this stuff, so how do you expect a student to learn from a dolt in the first place ??

    We had a guy in our shop some years ago, that couldn't draw anything except put a mustache on magazine portrait, but he graduated 1st in his class. He had natural raw talent and it was never honed until he went to work for a screen printing place. From there he came to us and did he ever excel when we let him go. He learned quite a bit of artsy things from us, but with his knowledge in software, he was doing simply amazing layouts in several mediums. Again, he couldn't draw or paint, but he had imagination and could make the software sing sweet tunes. We're still in touch. He has his own little business going and he still farms a lot of things our way, that he isn't set up to do, but his designs are still top notch.

    Fine arts background would be my choice with a little knowledge in software for a designer. A technician...... might be just the opposite.

    It's really tough if ya can't do it yourself and try to groom someone into something you need. Simply hiring someone and hoping that a year later they pick up your shortcomings.... well, what do they have to learn from ??
  17. round man

    round man Active Member

    Oct 16, 2005
    +1 what Gino posted,...in art school (both Graphic and fine arts) back in the 70's when a computer had it's own building and a guard ,...one had to be able to produce designs and presentations by hand whether they were taking graphic design and or fine arts,...many of the courses required were attended by both types of students we are discussing,... fine arts and graphic design students,...back then we had a saying,..that still rings true,..."those that can do!,...those that can't,...teach",.....

    today thirty years later those that "couldn't" are now still teaching with a few minor exceptions and the folks who back then who could,...well they are still doing it one way or another,...as for those who couldn't they still can't no matter how complicated or easy modern computers make their efforts,....

    edited to add,...in the university system in my state,guidance counselors are required by law to inform fine art students there are no longer jobs waiting for people with that type of degree in the marketplace,...so they are churning out "graphic design" students faster than the marketplace can create available jobs,....and confusing the very choice we are discussing here,....
  18. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

    Jan 2, 2010
    Mitten State
    Yes to what everybody says. JB
  19. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Houston TX
    i can't wait until there will be:

    Professional Rap Artistry Training Institute
    Tattoo and Piercing Professional Technical Institute
    Professional Sport Star Institute

    these for profit colleges should be outlawed. it's just a bunch of businessmen raping the gov't for tax dollars to con wide eyed high school graduates that don't want a "real job".
  20. TyrantDesigner

    TyrantDesigner Art! Hot and fresh.

    Mar 9, 2011
    Amarillo, TX
    Man, what pat and artbot and a few others described is just about spot on.

    Every time I hired a graphic designer with a G.D. degree ... waste of time and money ... you almost have to babysit them since it's next to impossible to get a basic idea out of them you haven't fully proofed and/or detail sketched for them. Get a fine art major in ... it's like you don't even need to check on them. I myself have a fine art background AND a graphic design background ... though I only went to school for fine art ... i took what I learned there and applied it to my design work ... plus it's sort of needed now adays to know computer art skills just to do commission work and not spend 20 hours sketching a mural and instead pump it out on a computer in 30-40 minutes and be done with it.

    I really do think a graphic designer needs a good emphasis on knowing the artistic process if you're not a keyboard jockey laying out pages in indesign to a template. Everything else needs the fundamentals and some form of creativity to draw from since I can teach almost anyone a new technique and I can teach anyone the software ... can't teach creativity ... that is like throwing nails at a tree and thinking you are building a house.

    I just feel sorry for those kids going through an art school ... $100k+ for just 4 years of school to get a degree that isn't worth the ink it's printed on and had they just spent 2 years at a comm college getting a business degree and spent 3 years learning on their own from other artists and attending 100k full of artist retreats, guided art classes and spent time in shops and design firms learning the stuff they NEED to learn ... they would be much better off. ... and have a better resume.

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