Otherlinks: Telling the Difference between Street Art and Graffiti
Otherlinks: Telling the Difference between Street Art and Graffiti

What's the Difference between Street Art & Graffiti?


Whether you look at amateur work in public spaces where you live or something on a bigger scale like the Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn, street art and graffiti have captured worldwide attention. These art pieces encompass a wide range of murals that have created an entirely unique style.

While both are pretty popular styles of art, especially in urban areas, they are often confused with one another. Both are a part of the subversive art movement, being up for display in public locations rather than in a gallery. To the eye of someone unaware of this style, graffiti and street art might look like the same thing. But in the opinion of brands like OtherLinks, there is a slight difference between the two. To put it in a few words, both are different from each other in terms of intent, function, and definitely – technique.

Before we begin, let’s understand what graffiti actually is.

The word graffiti comes from the Italian word sgraffito, which means ‘scratch’. The word is also a nod to the Greek word graphein, which means ‘to write’, used to indicate the drawing foundon Roman architecture. In essence, graffiti means to draw or scribble on a flat surface.

Over the years, the definition and technique of this ancient graffiti have changed tremendously. In fact, during the 1960s, graffiti became popular as tagging. Gangs and high schoolers would scratch their name on structures, buildings, and walls to ‘tag’ them.

Within the tagging genre, there are different types, including gang graffiti to mark territories, tagger graffiti, malicious or vindictive graffiti, and ideological graffiti. From this, you can get the idea that street art is in fact, a sub-genre or subset of the graffiti umbrella.

The line that delineates graffiti writing from street art is the intent of the one doing it. When it comes to graffiti writing, the writer or tagger’s intent is to communicate with other taggers and graffiti writers. They don’t necessarily want the public to understand the meaning behind their work.

Street artists, on the other hand, paint with the intent to stand out and create something that the public sees and interacts with. Hence, street artists conceptualize ideas, values, and different social problems into art pieces. They don’t just want to tag a place to mark their territory. Instead, they want to get a message across and elicit an emotional response from people who come across it. For example, Banksy is one of England’s most famous street artists, notorious for painting in difficult locations. His art is often described as absurd and humorous, but always with meaning behind it. For example, one of his famous paintings was inside the wall of an elephant enclosure. The painting was done in a way that it seemed like the animals wrote their feelings on the wall. The intention behind the painting was to let people see the reality of keeping animals in cages and how badly it impacts them.

The main idea behind street art is to shock and captivate people’s attention, while graffiti writing is more personal to the tagger and subversive. The irony in this instance is that both styles of art, which were once considered an act of vandalism, are being recognized and appreciated by galleries and big brands. For instance, streetwear brands like OtherLinks incorporate the concept of street art in their clothing lines.

To conclude, street art and graffiti might be similar in terms of venue but are different from each other in intent and audience.


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