I am asked this constantly, "What is the difference between a 3D Artist, and 3D Designer?"
In the past I have regularly spoken to classes of students in both High Schools and College, and I begin with a simple delineation that was made clear while attending both C.C.S. in Detroit, and A.C.C.D. in Pasadena, namely what is the difference between Design and Illustration?
Simplified down to start, the difference is do you like to draw what you see in front of you, or from your head?
Obviously there is cross over , but an illustrators training is in still life, composition, and figurative work. Whereas a Designer is trained in Ergonomics, Theory of Structure, Automotive Engineering, Aerodynamics, Basic Construction, Manufacturing, Mold making, Sculpting, Woodworking, metalworking, etc. The same analogy applys in the world of 3D.
Another major difference between an Illustrator and a Designer is that the flat artwork of the Illustrator or painter, IS the product itself and an end, where as to the designer, say an architect, the plans POINT to the actual design which happens to be a house, the artwork being 2D or 3D is a means to an end so the emphasis is on the design itself not always the illustration.
Why is this such a big difference? Well if an illustrator paints a great concept that looks great, but the door hits the wall and will not open as a functioning design it FAILED as a design solution,but may very well be an amazing painted piece of artwork and be fine. An illustrator in neither trained or always concerned about actual function of products in an illustration[ artistic license] as the painting itself is the final product, since the artwork is the product.
As a 3D Designer I always design two things, first the idea or product itself, and second how it is to be made or built. While designing I am figuring out how to build it so my sketches reflect an accuracy that a painter can miss. This is where the saving is for a clients budget!
As a 3D Designer, if I design something great, BUT it cannot be made I FAILED. I must consider this during the design and sketching stage, whereas an illustrator is painting a cool picture and with most it ends there.
All 3D Designers are 3D Artists, BUT not all 3D Artists are 3D Designers.
"Knowing how to use a table saw and cut wood does not make you an Architect!"