An Artist Works from an Inner Necessity - A Designer Works from an Outer Necessity
I have always been drawing. My childhood and youth heroes were (and actually still are) Claus Deleuran, and in particular the French cartoonists Édika and Sempé, MAD magazine and Gary Larson, Franquin, Bo Bojesen, Storm P., and others.
I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was growing up. When I was applying to the Kolding School of Arts and Crafts the admission requirements were very strict. In order to even sit for the admission test you had to submit a folder with 30 different drawings (croquis, a nature drawing and some graphic design work). For the admission test, which lasted three days, we drew cigarettes. The first day ‘au naturel’, the second day a poster for a smoke-free day and the third day a cartoon about smoking.
During my five years at the school I submitted two written assignments. The rest of the time I immersed myself in design and arts and crafts.
One day in my second year I drew a small boy running with an ice lolly and being chased by a million bees. When my teacher on the project, Ole Johannesen, saw it he said that of course I was going to be a cartoonist. That’s not what I had in mind at all.
I soon became interested in typography and logo design, and during the rest of my studies my goal was to be a graphic designer.
Then I moved to Copenhagen, where the large design studios are.
But after having worked as a designer for a couple of years I slowly discovered that designing was not really my strength. I found the very specific assignments as well as the collaboration with the customers and having to respect their wishes quite challenging. I never really liked nor was I good at finding a solution with the customer and my superiors. I returned to what I knew how to do prior to my education: I started drawing again.
I learnt a lot at the design school, though. I learnt craftsmanship. I had the opportunity to immerse myself. I had the opportunity to make a fool of myself [without consequences]. But more than anything else I learnt to take a stand, to argue in favour of my decisions; I learnt creative methods; I learnt to choose - and more importantly - to reject. I learnt a language; I learnt to verbalise visual thoughts and solutions. But first and foremost I got to know some people for whom I came to have the deepest professional respect and who inspired me tremendously. Those friendships became just as important for my creative development as the school itself and its teachers.
I still use what I learnt when I talk to my colleagues at my paper about how to solve a problem. Most of the time I complete the assignments on my own, but discussing ideas with others can be very time-saving.
I have doubts about many things, and I think that almost everything can be viewed from a different perspective. But when I am drawing and thinking professionally I feel very confident and self-assured, which often surprises me.
The difference between an artist and a designer is that a designer has to solve a fixed assignment. A designer has a customer. An artist works from an inner necessity. A designer works from an outer necessity. That does not mean that design cannot be personal. It just means that a designer has a clearly defined assignment that has to be completed.