Art is not what you see…

“Art is not what you see, it’s what you make others see”

– Edgar Degas, French artist (1834-1917)

I agree with this statement, which switches things around nicely, so that instead of thinking only about our own point of view as the creator, we also look at things from the point of view of the audience/client/customer.

In the context of combining art and business, Degas helps us to think about Marketing and Quality in useful ways. I suggest that:

  • Marketing is about looking at things from the point of view of the customer (or “audience” or “client” if you prefer).
  • Quality is not what you put into it, but what the customer gets out of it.

I’m sure Edgar Degas would agree.

Furthermore, what you ‘make others see’ might be a variety of different things. According to Charles Leadbeater in his essay ‘The Art of With’, the writer Umberto Eco “long ago declared that works of art were open to multiple interpretations; the reader was as active in creating meanings as the writer.”

In business terms, we need to be open to these various ‘meanings’ or ‘customer interpretations’ because otherwise there can be a big difference between what you think you are selling and what the customer is actually buying. What you consciously or unconsciously ‘make others see’ could be a lifestyle, a feelgood factor (or even a ‘feelbad factor’), or maybe a ‘talking point’ or a ‘story’ when they buy your creative product or service.

What both Degas and Eco are saying is that we need to be aware that other people (the audience/reader/consumer/customer) might see things differently than we do.

Understanding how clients see things and perceive customer benefits helps creative entrepreneurs to become even more successful in terms of marketing, pricing and choosing the right customers.


Share your own thoughts and experiences about all this on the Creative Enterprise Network.


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