Semiotic Taxonomy in the Classroom

By Richard Pratt.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

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

This paper examines my attempts over the previous five years at using (Peircean) semiotic taxonomies in undergraduate graphic design classes to improve student outcomes. This includes the use of taxonomies to help expand visual diversity among student work, to bring better understanding and greater nuance to visual messaging, and to reinforce basic understandings of how perception functions. This examination will include examples of student work generated from past assignments and proposals for future projects. It will also cover the basics of how semiotic information is introduced to students, and how it is reinforced through a variety of assignments with varying degrees of success. Along with the semiotic theories of Charles Sanders Peirce, students are introduced to Umberto Eco’s thoughts on abduction, basic competing ideas from Ferdinand de Saussure, and a simplified version of John Dewey’s theory of aesthetics.

Keywords: Semiotics, Graphic Design, Charles Sanders Peirce, Classroom

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.13-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 543.986KB).

Prof. Richard Pratt

Associate Professor, Graphic Design, Department of Design, California State University, Sacramento, CA, USA

With a strong background in art and aesthetics and several years of professional design experience, Richard Pratt brings expertise in both theory and practice to the classroom. Prior to joining the California State University, Sacramento faculty in 2002, he worked at design studios in Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he designed collateral materials, exhibits, product packaging, and publications. In his teaching, he encourages students to consider the power of visual elements to communicate varied messages, both intended and unintended. His research interests include aesthetics, semiotics, and the relationship between art and design. In addition to earning his Bachelors of Fine Arts in painting, printmaking and drawing at Ohio State University, and his Masters of Fine Arts in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, he studied graphic design at the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati.