Applied arts refers to the application of design and aesthetics to objects of function and everyday use. Whereas fine arts serve as intellectual stimulation to the viewer or academic sensibilities, the applied arts incorporate design and creative ideals to objects of utility, such as a cup, magazine or decorative park bench.
The fields of industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design, decorative art and functional art are considered applied arts.
In a creative context, the fields of architecture and photography are considered applied arts.
Fine art refers to arts that are "concerned with beauty or which appealed to taste" (SOED 1991). The term was first attested in 1767, as a translation from the French term beaux arts and designates a limited number of visual art forms, including painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Schools, institutes, and other organizations still use the term to indicate a traditional perspective on the visual arts, often implying an association with classic or academic art.
The word "fine" does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline. This definition tends to exclude visual art forms that could be considered craftwork or applied art, such as textiles. The more recent term visual arts is widely considered to be a more inclusive and descriptive phrase for today's variety of current art practices, and for the multitude of mediums in which high art is now more widely recognized to occur. Ultimately, the term fine in 'fine art' comes from the concept of Final Cause, or purpose, or end, in the philosophy of Aristotle. The Final Cause of fine art is the art object itself; it is not a means to another end except perhaps to please those who behold it.
The term is still often used outside of the arts to denote when someone has perfected an activity to a very high level of skill. For example, one might metaphorically say that "Pelé took football to the level of a fine art."
That fine art is seen as being distinct from applied arts is largely the result of an issue raised in Britain by the conflict between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, and the early modernists, including Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The former sought to bring socialist principles to bear on the arts by including the more commonplace crafts of the masses within the realm of the arts, while the modernists sought to keep artistic endeavour exclusive, esoteric, and elitist.
An academic course of study in fine art may include a Master of Fine Arts degree.