Education Article :: Chapter 12 :: Semiotics

The semiotics study is a complex project to introduce student to an analytical as well as a generative process to design. The obtuse language is similar to any other complex problem. A client that is a scientist also would have a difficult complex language to decipher. The students make clear this complex information. They are challenges at every step of this process to make it simple and understandable to their audience or design directors. That is the assignment: make it clear.

Semiotics (the logic of relations) is the inter-disciplinary study of signs. In the senior year semiotics is introduced to the students in my Visible Language class through text analysis and design exercises. The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure ('Semiology'), and the American philosopher and logician Charles Saunders Peirce ('Semiotic') are examined in relationship to the students previous design studies. Although the study of semiotics is more fully developed in a graduate school setting I feel it is important to introduce the basic principles during undergraduate study. Simple charts and explanations of semiotics are developed by the students before a project is undertaken. Usually a poem or short text is chosen to illustrate the content of the piece. This process is essential to show how complex ideas can be expressed in graphic terms. The dense semiotic language is condensed to a reasonable level for the students to comprehend. Every effort is made to expand their knowledge using semiotics as the basis. By explaining a language in simple charts and diagrams, the students gain experience using the complex system of signs.

The term 'semiotic' was adapted by John Locke from the Greek Stoics, who in turn were influenced by the Greek medical tradition that interpreted diagnosis and prognosis as sign processes. Charles S. Peirce (1839-1914), who followed John Locke's usage, is responsible for the present widespread employment of the term 'semiotic'. The terms 'significs' and 'semantics' are also in use, though the tendency now is to use 'semantics' for only one branch of semiotic.
Charles Morris 'Signification and Significance'
(The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1964; pg. 01)

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