Towards a logical turn of design

Ever since Marshall McLuhan published his legendary views on media in the 1960’s, wherein he predicted the return to “the Africa within”, a new era in design practice is unmistakably emerging. Due to new technologies in media, a shift from the printed word and the literary culture, towards a more pictorial form of communication is inevitable, with an emotional way of ‘reading’ as a result. Forty years later Jensen describes this shift more detailed in his work The Dream Society wherein he shows an inclination towards objects that inspire users, instead of products that are only ease-in-use, attractive, affordable or sustainable. Products should enhance people’s lives not only practical, but also emotional. Consumers will not pay for the latest technology, but for the story that evokes dreams and connects with our identity.

More recently, award winning designer Klaus Krippendorff observed in his groundbreaking work The Semantic Turn: A  New Foundation for Design (2005) that design urgently has to shift gears from a preoccupation on how artifacts ought to function, or appeal esthetically, to what they mean to their users. “Maybe we could talk about an analytical or logical turn of design, away from the arts-and-crafts orientation” comments Pelle Ehn in ARTIFACT 2007. Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon in his The Sciences of the Artificial (1969) suggests that the seemingly elusive and always changing characteristics of design could be transformed in ways such that methods of logic, mathematics and statistics could be applied. He goes so far as to compare future design to natural sciences, and proposes a kind of design engineering.

The growing interest for semantics among designers and marketers is thus not surprising. Demirbilek already noticed this emerging evolution in the US in 2003, where product semantics became one of the most important trends. In the Trend Report 2016 of Wijs design semantics was spotted by David Gillain, general manager at Android (Antwerp based creative agency), as one of the important new trends in Belgium. Companies are increasingly aware that imaging is communication indeed, and that it better be well done.