Semiotics: A Primer for Designers [Boxes and Arrows]

by Limbic on April 23, 2004

From the introduction:

In its simplest form, Semiotics can be described as the study of signs. Not signs as we normally think of signs, but signs in a much broader context that includes anything capable of standing for or representing a separate meaning.

Paddy Whannel[1] offered a slightly different definition. “Semiotics tells us things we already know in a language we will never understand.” Paddy’s definition is partly right. The language used by semioticians can often be overkill, and indeed semiotics involves things we already know, at least on an intuitive level. Still, semiotics is important for designers as it allows us to understand the relationships between signs, what they stand for, and the people who must interpret them — the people we design for.

The science of Semiology (from the Greek semeîon, ‘sign’) seeks to investigate and understand the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Semiotics represents a range of studies in art, literature, anthropology, and the mass media rather than an independent academic discipline. The disciplines involved in semiotics include linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, aesthetic and media theory, psychoanalysis and education. MORE

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