The Industrial Designer as Mediator and Semiotic Translator: Mediating Client’s and User’s Needs

By Jonathan Ventura.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

How far goes the industrial designer’s influence? In an ethnographical research, which took part over the period of 16 months, I delved into the complex world of industrial designers in order to illuminate this question. This research focuses on the various social, cultural and technological “agentic” abilities of the industrial designer. The designer stands in a unique place situated in the midst of the “holy trinity” of the design world, consisted of the designer, the customer (the brad or company) and the user/buyer.
However, in contrast to my first impression, the designer was not found out to be a social agent (as in the classical sociological term), but rather an intermediary and a semiotic translator. As an intermediary, the designer tries to juggle the user’s and customer’s needs, hence articulating these in the designed product. The main methods by which the designer acts is by doing ethnographic research, using different modelling stages to decipher the user’s needs, and finally by using semiotic translation to articulate these needs in the designed product . By using these methods the designer acts as a mediator combining the client’s and user’s needs in the 3D object, which in turn manifests the “holy trinity’s” needs.

Keywords: Industrial Design, Semiotics, Ethnography, Modelling, Social Agent, Research

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.73-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 797.302KB).

Jonathan Ventura

Lecturer and PhD Candidate, The Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the Department of Industrial Design, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel

I’m currently at the finishing stages of my PhD dissertation, focusing on an interdisciplinary research using ethnography to better understand the role of the industrial designer in society. I teach various courses in industrial design, material and visual culture, anthropology and cultural studies at Hadassah College in Jerusalem, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Open University.


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