The difference between graphic design and fine art is simple, isn't it? After all, graphic design relays a message and fine art is “art of arts sake”, right? Well, yes and no, graphic design does typically relay a message (such as in advertising), but let us not forget that fine art usually conveys a message as well. So what is the difference, if there is one? I feel confident in my opinion that the two disciplines have some overlap, but two different purposes.
I believe that graphic design typically conveys a literal message using typography as well as imagery. For instance, graphic design started with pictographs, hieroglyphics, and alphabets used to communicate everything from cultural history to monetary notes. Every culture, the world over, has been impacted by our ability to communicate literal meanings visually. Without a written history to learn from and reference , we wouldn't likely have ten percent of the technology and engineering that we all take for granted everyday.
Do not, however, think that I am discounting the contributions of fine art; these contributions are simply different. Fine art, more often than not, relays some sort of an emotional or moral message and does so more subtly. Take plays such as the Greek tragedies for example. Without a closer look or examination of the deeper moral message that these plays contain, someone may simply think that they have read a tragic story and take nothing away from it. However, these plays as well as many other works of fine art do often convey significant meanings if you take the time required to study and understand these often subtle messages.