I used to think that these were the same thing until I started reading this article: putting down your crayons. The article basically states that while an artist makes something without restriction and attempts to make an emotional impact, a designer makes something for a client that he/she can use.
Where do I fit in?
I initially started being interested in urban design, which allowed me to sketch out what makes a good public space, street, or neighborhood through drawing out what I saw in San Francisco. Overtime, I also started visiting websites such as Sensable City Lab which allowed me to see how info-graphics, data, real-time sensory mapping, can really help us understand the city in detail in order to make better decisions about where we live.
These two different experiences, in addition to taking a drawing class, inspired me to ask: how can we use art, science, and technology to better engage our people in the cities we live in in order to create a healthier, sustainable city? Coming from the art, I was really interested in the visual components of how people can better understand a particular issue to make better decisions.
The diagram above shows a color gradient of water shortage throughout China; I am really interested in how to communicate these ideas better to invite people to think about the places they live in.
Without belaboring the point too much, I would say that I am a specific type of designer: visual & communications design. I want my work to tell stories, to inspire people to use this information to make better decisions, ranging from the individual to the policy level.
However, I borrow elements of art; in some ways you can consider me an artist because I have to be concerned about the composition of what I show, the layout, the colors, etc.
Part of me is also an artist because I am telling a story; this means at times, there is no restriction (and at times there is, due to the client involved). This also depends on the project that I am involved with.
In a sense, I essentially have to play both roles. I would consider a graphic journalist (i.e. a field I want to explore) a form of design because you are trying to use art to tell a story about a specific event, to inform citizens, allow them to empathize with a situation, to make better decisions.