Why Designers Should Study Semiotics: Applications of Semiotics to User Interface Design

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2023-04-10

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Abstract

Adopting a semiotic perspective greatly benefits user interface designers, however its potential has remained largely untapped in the field of human computer interaction and user interface design. In this essay I explain the most pertinent theories of semiotics for designers, including Peirce’s nonstructuralism and sign complex model, Eco’s theory of sign production, critique of iconicity, and theory of interpretation, Jakobson’s speech act model, Bolinger’s rejection of the sign as arbitrary, and Lotman’s semiosphere. I base my analysis in relevant theories of user interface design and human computer interaction (HCI) including Norman’s cognitive engineering and user centered systems design models, as well as Kammersgaard’s four perspectives on HCI. I synthesize these theories by analyzing existing applications of semiotics to HCI by Andersen, Nadin, and de Souza. The major themes that emerge from this analysis are frequent misinterpretations of Peirce rooted in structural semiotics, the usefulness of Eco and Lotman’s semiosphere level view, the significance of viewing the interface as a mediating non-physical sign system, and the importance of using consistent logic and code within interface languages.

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Carroll, Sophia (2023). Why Designers Should Study Semiotics: Applications of Semiotics to User Interface Design. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27340.


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