Applied Art vs Design

How different is applied art from design? Art fundamentally is a form of expression while a design has to communicate. But applied art has many characteristics that are similar to design – one of them is the context of application. Medium where the art is applied holds the same amount of constraints and makes it contextual, just like in design. How does one explain this?

Let’s take a cell phone. The concept of a cell phone, simplified, is a device for communication. Now try mapping the levels of cell phone concepts to that of art.

How a cell phone works and what it contains – its fundamentals, is equivalent to fine art. The core concepts of art, such as materials, usage, medium, is applicable to cell phone as well.

Similarly, the different models and features of a cell phone, that abstracts the fundamentals can be mapped to abstract art?

And, when a cell phone is applied to a context – usage by elderly, say – it becomes equivalent to applied art. Some call it design for context, or emotion. I just call it user centered design.

I have not studied art to really stand by these definitions, I am just looking at this from an eye of a designer. But this surely does explain why designers often can sustain a conversation in applied arts, and to certain extent on abstract art, they fail to stay on board when it comes to fine arts. I do not want to say that designers lack fundamentals, but the most important aspect of design and usability is the context and usage, which matches quite well with applied arts.