JUNE 2 : SEMIOTIC INSIGHT FOR DESIGN INNOVATION

10 speakers through 3 sessions reveal, how can semiotics be applied for product and service innovation or to improve on user experience. Our keynote Farouk Y. Seif explores through actual design projects how integrating design and semiotics can enhance the capacity to innovate and change.

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09:00-10:00   :   Registration & coffee

09:30-10:45   :   KEYNOTE SESSION

Welcome address

Keynote speech
“The Crucible of Innovation: A Fusion of Design and Semiotics”
Farouk Y. Seif, Ph.D., USA
Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Change at Antioch University Seattle, Washington

Questions & answers

10:45-11:00   :   Break

11:00-12:20   :   Session 1 – Semiotic insight for product and service innovation

“Wheelchair as a gamechanger”
Kateřina Ailová; Lucia Trézová, Czech Republic
Chief Innovation Officer at IdeaSense / Independent Researcher and Brand Strategist, Czech Republic

“Semiosfera and the Mexico’s city Metro”
Maximino Matus Ruiz, Mexico
Researcher at CONACYT; El Colegio de La Frontera Norte (El Colef)

“The BRICS Bank – a New World Order”
Alpana Parida, India
President of DY Works Branding Agency

“How to subject the individual to innovation”
Anti Randviir, Estonia
Senior researcher, University of Tartu

12:20-13:20   :   Lunch

13:20-14:30   :   Session 2 – Semiotic insight for innovation in media & communication

“Analysing emergent language as a way to innovation, and how this idea was sold to a Telco”
Sónia Marques, Portugal
Founder of Indiz

“The future of communication at distance. How to use semiotics to help the American research team of the Bell Labs (former AT&T) to identify key challenges”
Samuel Grange, France
Head of Innovation Strategy at InProcess

“Innovating television to meet the divergent needs of an entire population”
Karin Sandelin, Sweden
Semiotician & Art Director at TNS Sifo

Creative inspiration
axioms of a semiotic architecture
Thierry Mortier, Belgium
semiotic architect, semiotic.tv

14:30-14:40   :   Break

14:40-15:40   :   Session 3 – Semiotic insight for innovation in IT & new media

“How can a backend semiotic analysis of a website or application, assist in tailoring a user’s experience of the frontend journey, thus improving the interaction at key points via a deeper level of prototyping?”
Kyle J Davidson, UK
MA student in Modern Liberal Arts at Winchester University (UK)
(could not attend)

“Play, Engagement, and Addiction: Semiotics and Digital User Interface Design”
Sarah Johnson, Canada
Principal of Athena Brand Wisdom

“Visual Communication in Avatar Therapy”
Rodrigo Morais; Roberto Chiachiri, Brazil
Professor at Facultade Casper Libero / Professor at Facultade Casper Libero

15:40-16:00   :   Break

 

ABSTRACTS

09:30-10:45   :   KEYNOTE SESSION

Keynote speech
“The Crucible of Innovation: A Fusion of Design and Semiotics”
Farouk Y. Seif, Ph.D., USA
Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Change at Antioch University Seattle, Washington

Although semiotics has been accepted as a transdisciplinary framework of understanding and communicating information, it is unclear how semiotic thinking fosters innovation without augmenting design approach. Semiotics as a new “third branch” of human knowledge embodies similar characteristics to those of design as a “third culture.” While Semiotics can be used for deep diagnostics and insightful interpretations, design is the approach to conceptualization and concretization of a desired future. Semiotic analysis can uncover cultural trends, but design synthesis can create wide a range choices for cultural transformations.

Beyond restricting design to the domain of products and artifacts, design thinking covers a whole range of human activities. The fusion of design and semiotics traverses the boundaries among the real, true, and imaginary. Through actual design projects, a case can be made for how integrating design and semiotics can encourage us to turn our attention to the development of our capacity to become incubators of innovation and agents of change. By recognizing the universal scope of semiotics, and tolerating the uncertainty and ambiguity associated with design, we are able to maintain the crucible of innovation.

 

11:00-12:20   :   Session 1 – Semiotic insight for product and service innovation

“Wheelchair as a gamechanger”
Kateřina Ailová; Lucia Trézová, Czech Republic
Chief Innovation Officer at IdeaSense / Independent Researcher and Brand Strategist, Czech Republic

The purpose of our presentation is to demonstrate the process and benefits of an application of semiotic analysis along with a qualitative ethnographic approach in human-centered innovation development. In the process of new product design, in this case a wheelchair as a piece of sports equipment, we explored social and cultural contexts as well as idiosyncratic meanings in the intersection of sports and wheelchair-bound lifestyle. The analysis leads to positioning the new wheelchair as fashionable sports equipment with outstanding design, rather than a medical device. The semiotic analysis also impacted the design of functional and technical details. The wheelchair design was awarded the Red Dot Design Award in 2015.

Takeaways:

1. We present how we deconstructed, de-coded the current meanings of the wheelchair (as a medical device for disabled people generating pity in others) and re-contextualized it, re-coded it toward the new meanings (cool, trendy sports equipment generating pride in its users and respect in others) by the use of semiotics applied in a design process.

2. We show how the social context and cultural discourses along with the standard design of the wheelchair impact its meanings and the consequent identity of the handicapped people (sportsmen) and how the change of the wheelchair design may change the identity of its users, and consequently also cultural discourses about handicapped people (sportsmen).

3. We show how the application of an ethnographic approach along with the use of the semiotic analysis affected in practice not only the esthetic features (including fashion-like attributes) of the wheelchair design, but also its functional elements and the used material and technology in a new wheelchair design.

+ two more:

4. We present how we changed the symbolic meanings of the wheelchair and anchored the new meanings via the use of an attractive and innovative design of the wheelchair for handicapped people (sportsmen).

5. We present how we used metaphors in exploring connotations and all related meanings.

 

“Semiosfera and the Mexico’s city Metro”
Maximino Matus Ruiz, Mexico
Researcher at CONACYT; El Colegio de La Frontera Norte (El Colef)

Semiosfera is a disruptive innovation consultancy established in México City. We use anthropological and semiotic research methods in order to analyze social practices and signs in action. Semiosfera´s main goal is to help organizations to promote disruptive innovation. We develop insightful strategies to promote significant changes in society and market differentiation. Our insights are generated directly from data acquired in the field through different qualitative research techniques. Our results can help public and private organizations to make assertive decision-making and evaluate their performance.

In 2015 Semiosfera worked for the Mexico City Metro. The main goal of the research was to generate in-depth knowledge about the habits and quotidian problems that users of the Public Transport System used to face in order to generate innovative solutions and make their travel experience better. We used ethnographic research methods to collect information and semiotic thinking to analyze it and generate disruptive innovation strategies.

Some of our findings showed that Mexico City Metro’s identity was related to that of the man depicted in the classic narrative of the Mexican gold cinema era (1936 – 1959), an ugly, strong and formal man –e.g. Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, or Luis Aguilar. Older generations found this image unproblematic – for them the Metro could not be any other way – but younger ones do not like it. They do not had a referent for this signified. Our study showed that due to the strong cultural anchorage that the Metro´s image had, in order to change its identity in a positive way for all generations, keeping its anthropomorphic identity was problematic.

In this paper we present in a detailed manner the methodology we used in this research to collect information, the innovations we proposed and the deliverable format we used to communicate the findings to our client.

 

“The BRICS Bank – a New World Order”
Alpana Parida, India
President of DY Works Branding Agency

We recently won a global pitch across 16 agencies from 6 countries, to brand the BRICS Bank (Brazil, Russia, India, China & S. Africa) based in Shanghai.

The BRICS Bank – also called the New Development Bank is a multilateral financial institution formed by these 5 countries to enable development in sustainability and infrastructure. The Bank is to be differentiated from The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IFC (Washington), CAF, AIIB and many other global multilateral institutions. We used semiotics to decode what the other MDBs (multilateral development banks) stood for – and then defined the brand strategy for the new bank, using the semiotic square to arrive at their positioning.

The belief that needed to be encoded about this new institution was taken across their buildings, their language, their websites, their behaviours, their social media presence to media reports. Thus semiotics was extensively used for decoding and encoding.

As a result of that, we are contributing to the bank’s formation significantly, through –

  • branding
  • office design
  • communication and social media strategy
  • internal culture workshops
  • digital strategy

The case study would delineate this journey and the audience would see the following:

  1. Application of semiotics to define business problems
  2. Application of semiotics to design thinking solutions
  3. Seeing how cross-cultural solutions are arrived at

Semiotic solutions are intended to be tethered through brand expression – coded such that the metaphor in the sub-conscious mind and the belief system of the unconscious mind are able to understand that these signify a different MDB with a vastly different set of values and practices.

We have been working with a 5 nation team where different solutions have different meanings. Hopefully, this journey will be of interest to the audience.

“How to subject the individual to innovation”
Anti Randviir, Estonia
Senior researcher, University of Tartu

One of the commonest truths in cultural semiotics is that culture consists of sign systems. What are these sign systems, where do they begin and end? First, in the framework of cultural semiotics, sign systems can be understood as institutions making semiosis possible. Second, a conditional result of semiosic processes can be seen in the form of diverse kinds and types of texts. In both cases – that of semiosis and also of texts – semiosic and communicative processes are to be comprehended as circulating around three major cultural functions: generation, maintenance, and transmission of information. We can see an obvious contradictory element here: how to maintain identity discourse on different levels beginning from texts to individuals, organisations, trade units and so forth, if that identity has to continually initiate and cope with the generation of information? Third, the issue is thus about controlled innovation that is simultaneously a key and danger for semiotic subjects and their identity. The semiotic subject as an individual has to be subject to the corporeal semiotic subject of an organisation, be the latter formed on social, economic, cultural or other grounds. Further, an institutional semiotic subject is bound to active self-positioning in respect to a given culture core. Trying to understand the mechanisms of innovation should thus help us to see how individuals as semiotic subjects create their identity discourse under the load of the three main cultural functions, and how they guarantee their organisation’s sustainability by innovations that principally should be seen as centrifugal forces for the culture core. Sometimes such micro-level processes can be vivisected at a wider scale of developments, concerning also the logic of marketing and economic innovations leading to dynamism between core cultures, mass cultures, pop-cultures, and subcultures. For theoretical and also practical considerations, it is important that identity maintaining innovation can be managed and goal- directed.

 

 

13:20-14:30   :   Session 2 – Semiotic insight for innovation in media & communication

“Analysing emergent language as a way to innovation, and how this idea was sold to a Telco”
Sónia Marques, Portugal
Founder of Indiz

Semiotic techniques, in particular metaphor analysis, are a way to anticipate the future. There are different reasons for this:

1. Because innovation only becomes generalised when it is resolved by language, emerging language is a fast-track to access changes.

2. Since novelty can only be understood through the use of familiar terminology, i.e. the ‘new’ is acknowledged through the ‘old’, the analysis of metaphors unveils the way in which innovation will be integrated in the everyday.

3. Finally, as novelty is shaped by the media, understanding the context of specialised media helps us to comprehend social representations from the outset.

In 2015, Indiz proposed the analysis of metaphors underlying specialised technical articles for a telecommunications company in order to reveal how the convergence of different media, such as television, voice calls and the experience of surfing the net, was being represented.

It was explained to the client how emergent language shapes the future, and how the client can grasp it as long as they can understand the metaphors underlying articles in scientific and technical journals. Several examples were presented, including the ‘desktop’ metaphor. The ‘desktop’ metaphor was created 25 years ago by Xerox, and it is still shaping the way in which people interact with interfaces. It allows the users to understand the ‘devices’, but above all it helps users understand the possible modes in which one can interact with different objects. For example, the ‘desktop’ metaphor suggests that it is possible to move objects around, organise them, put them in the bin, take notice of where an object is and get it from a hierarchy of folders. Is it the novelty, the technology, that facilitates these tasks? No, it is the older element. It is the old desktop, the familiar physical reality, often made of wood, that helps us to interact with the digital reality. Clearly, the ‘desktop’ metaphor facilitates by virtue of its capacity to link the old to the new.


Takeaways:

1. Understanding novelty and innovation through the old and familiar (NEW IS OLD).

2. Acquiring metaphors used to express innovation.

3. Gaining access to a commercial approach.

 

“The future of communication at distance. How to use semiotics to help the American research team of the Bell Labs (former AT&T) to identify key challenges”
Samuel Grange, France
Head of Innovation Strategy at InProcess

In 2009, at InProcess, we were asked to help Bell Labs identify priorities for the R&D team and help them communicate about their challenges.

I used semiotics to identify in our cultural context the different configurations and interactions of people when communicating, at distance or not, in order to structure the key territories of communication at distance. Imaginaries from series, films, ads, and products were analysed (generative path).

What I’d like to share, beyond the semiotic process I used, is the structure of those configurations with a few examples to understand the diversity of interaction challenges. It was very helpful to build an overall vision of communication at distance and to map the different research projects of the Bell Labs.

Since it wasn’t possible to use user interactions to identify those challenges for usages that didn’t exist yet, semiotics proved itself very powerful to achieve this goal.


Takeaways:

1. It is possible to use semiotics to structure challenges for
applications and services that don’t exist yet.

2. Semiotics is easy to sell when users’ approaches are limited.

3. This kind of projects have long duration and many ideas we
identified previously are still actionable and not covered by any other offer on the market.

 

“Innovating television to meet the divergent needs of an entire population”
Karin Sandelin, Sweden
Semiotician & Art Director at TNS Sifo

This is a case of using semiotics to discover and explain how television can better meet the implicit emotional needs amongst the Swedish population.

Sveriges Television (SVT) is the Swedish public service television company with the widest range of programming of all TV companies in Sweden, operating eight channels distributed via all kinds of platforms. Being independent, non¬ commercial and financed by the Swedish population, SVT is by law obligated to broadcast television relevant to all of us, covering the whole genre spectrum. SVT is the most trusted Swedish media and enjoys good support from the Swedish TV audience.

Since 2013 I’ve been helping SVT to discover and understand how television may cover the viewer’s emotional needs even better. Our emotional needs change during the day and depending on situation and context. Sometimes we are more extroverted, sometimes more introverted. Sometimes we feel the need of belonging, and sometimes we want to feel like standing out from the crowd. Our choices are far from functional, rational or conscious.
With TNS global research model NeedScope we uncover existing emotive drives, and with semiotics I uncover how all symbolism in the television media signal and thereby meet these implicit needs. This symbolism lies in the narrative, tonality, forms and structures, color and lighting, voices and audio, clipping and tempo, movements, personas and metaphors. This works as a great foundation for innovation in broadcasting, making programs and their surrounding communications more significant, creative and spot-on.

How can a science program meet the emotional needs of feeling included, welcome, warm and positive? What happens when we add this music to these visuals? Which camera angles signal these values? Which movements? What lighting? In what surroundings? Should we have a studio and if so, what should it look like? What type of clothes should I wear? Close¬up or at a distance? Acoustic guitar or a violin? How can a children’s show meet the needs of caring, rootedness and introversion? How do we make a documentary more extroverted, ground¬breaking and dynamic? Can we still talk about family values and if so, how? What signals authenticity for the Swedish audience? What signals power? These are examples of questions being answered by semiotics. And the answers are essential and applicable to all kinds of communications, whether it is a picture, a word, a sound, a packaging, a flavor, or an environment.

Takeaways:

1. It is vital to consider what emotional needs you are addressing in your communication, not only functional ones.

2. Everything is a sign. To make a strong, spot¬on and consistent communication, you need to align the signified of all signifiers.

3. Semiotics helps you find new, ground¬breaking ways of expression to define and reinforce your brand character.

 

Creative inspiration
axioms of a semiotic architecture
Thierry Mortier, Belgium
semiotic architect, semiotics.tv

The presentation deals with the constructs of a semiotic architecture built on differentiation. As Charles Peirce explained, “all knowledge comes from differentiation”. Starting from Peirce’s Existential Graphs as the visual par excellence of differentiation, the talk moves to John Deely’s objective world via the thing­to­object transformation through species-specific judgments, thus creating species-specific umwelts. From Umberto Eco’s no semiosis ex novo ex nihilo; the location of innovation can be pinpointed and connected to how umwelts evolve and expand. Via Hintikka and Stjernfelt, everything is brought back to Peirce’s natural propositions. The presentation is summed up with how time impacts innovation through its impact on our umwelts. 



Takeaway:

  • pinpoint where innovation is situated

 

 

14:40-15:40   :   Session 3 – Semiotic insight for innovation in IT & new media

“How can a backend semiotic analysis of a website or application, assist in tailoring a user’s experience of the frontend journey, thus improving the interaction at key points via a deeper level of prototyping?”
Kyle J Davidson, UK
MA student in Modern Liberal Arts at Winchester University (UK)

When one thinks of semiotics and user experience, the discussion naturally turns to the layout, the logos, the copy. However, are we neglecting another space of investigation, a ‘Saussurean’ signifier to the signified concept? Much like the choice of language affects the semiotic analysis of the text of a website or application, so the choice of programming language could affect the interaction between the user and the interface.

If I present a specification for a website to 30 different programmers, I will get back 30 different constructions of the same design. The logic, the choice of language, the choice of hardware, software and so on can all affect the experience the user has of the site or app.
How do these choices dictate the choice of user? Does a difference in logic create a different space of interaction that leads to a faster or slower journey, or a journey that leads a shopper to click “buy” quicker or slower than others?

In addition, are there cultural concerns at play here? For example, is there an opportunity here to target different cultures with code that specifically matches that culture’s own social interactions – does a culture that has a pictographic language respond better to a site where the pictures load first? We aren’t just discussing the semiotics of the layout, but the specific order and construction of the page at its root.

Code is the framework upon which the text and atomised components of layout are hung and as such, it creates the initial field of interaction. Much like the design of a football stadium must start with the foundations, entrances and exits, rather than the billboards, so our technology must start at the CMS, the servers, the DOM, rather than skipping straight to visuals.


Takeaways:

1. A deeper understanding of the semiotics of frontend website design.

2. Applying a semiotic analysis to the backend framework opens up new avenues of investigation.

3. Neither point 1 or point 2 should occur in isolation but rather as a dynamic, co-dependent operation of analysis which allows the system’s architects, developers, designers and web content editors to continually place the user’s journey at the forefront of every decision.

 

“Play, Engagement, and Addiction: Semiotics and Digital User Interface Design”
Sarah Johnson, Canada
Principal of Athena Brand Wisdom

The Internet is now the world’s common innovation platform, and UX is one of the fastest growing areas of design thinking. Unlike other areas of design, the UX community considers research to be a central and critical component of design.

But while UX research has traditionally focused on pragmatic metrics like usability and task completion, designers today are moving to a more transcendent design philosophy focused on higher-level metrics. How pleasurable is our interface to use? How well does it hook people, and why? How can it evoke cultural themes that are personally meaningful? In our globalized world, how can our interfaces be universally understood?

Semiotics can make a strong contribution to this analysis, but there is still limited awareness in the UX community of its application. Therefore, the UX Design field now offers Semiotics practitioners the opportunity to position Semiotics as an innovation catalyst. And, of course, Semiotics’ focus on the role of culture empowers Semiotics practitioners to help UX designers ensure that their innovations are culturally relevant and readily adopted.

This position paper will discuss the role Semiotics can – and must – play in this critical emergent area.


Takeaways:

1. Identifying available points of application for Semiotics in the UX design process.

2. Offering a framework for understanding the various roles of Semiotic content in Web and App environments.

3. Outlining a set of specific, sellable applications Semiotics practitioners can pitch to UX design firms.

 

“Visual Communication in Avatar Therapy”
Rodrigo Morais; Roberto Chiachiri, Brazil
Professor at Facultade Casper Libero / Professor at Facultade Casper Libero

This paper presents the Avatar Therapy as a type of therapy developed by Julian Leff that creates avatars of hallucinated voices for schizophrenics to control what they hear. The proposed analysis focuses on this technological environment and its graphic construction considerations. For this the object of aesthetic evaluation would be in the fields of an interactive installation or an algorithmic art in relation to: (1) the graphic software itself, (2) the product of an application of a part of this software or even to (3) the software application process. This paper will also show that the challenge for the aesthetic production of an avatar to be used in Avatar Therapy must take into account the characteristics of the graphic software to comprehend the inner functions of the avatar and its interpretations made by the schizophrenic in a process that allows the creation of visual avatars for hallucinated data that were previously only part of auditory hallucinations. This process would ensure the effectiveness of the therapy, since the schizophrenic could synesthetically identify the hallucinated voice from interacting with the avatar on the three­dimensional platform. This contact with the visual communication of a hallucinated narrative demonstrates the quest to understand the equivalence between immediate objects that are translated inside and outside of the visual environment. The research will be based on Peirce’s semiotics allied to the studies of Helmut Pappe, Frieder Nake and Susan Grabowski.

Takeaways:

1. Avatar Therapy application process in treatment of schizophrenia.

2. Aesthetic production of an avatar to be used in visual communication of a hallucinated narrative.

3. Equivalence between immediate objects that are translated inside and outside of the visual environment.

 

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