“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Meaning: Semiotics

In my last piece, I discussed an important part of design education which is lessons in humanities especially rhetoric and comparative literature. I discussed the importance of frames as well as narrative. But it doesn’t end there. These concepts–frames and narrative–are just tools for something bigger, which is meaning.

As human beings a huge part of our derivation of meaning comes from language. Language though is largely understood as a collection of graphical symbols and signs. Further, we rely on non-linguistic pictograms to complete or enhance moments of communication where linguist communication is not always enough. But even what I’m referring to as non-linguistic almost always is understood as a linguistic analog.

The study of semiotics is crucial for all sorts of communication, but since design is so focused and relies on visual communication it is even more important, so I’ll add here:

#17 Semiotics: How do we understand and create meanings within signs.
When we talk about providing affordances within systems (where there weren’t before) is is really about creating cues through visual signs. Sometimes these signs existed within culture or map directly to culture and can be predictably understood. Sometimes we have to create wholly new signs and teach these systems. Sometimes especially these new semiotics exist in spaces beyond the initially visible and more involved envisioning our own kinesthetic presence. Regardless, for us to do well as designers, especially of systems without direct analog controls, we have to become experts in using existing and creating new meanings through the many forms of signs.

This is #17 of my series on thinking about design education. Here are the rest of the links:

As always, I’d love to hear from people their thoughts, contributions, questions and contradictions about any and all of these ideas.

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