Visual Language in Product Design

My college professor had once said that language is so limited and ambiguous. However, undeniably, this is the best strategy we’ve got for now to articulate ourselves and to communicate with each other. Language is considered to be the easiest approach for us to understand and to make ourselves clear.

Although human can express through music, dance and painting, these means of articulation have a wider range of interpretation than language does. That is, languages give indication more directly while visual images and sounds suggest symbolic meanings. On one hand, the stimulation of our five senses can be perceived directly while words need the support of imaginations. On the other hand, language only works for who have acquaintance with it but symbols could be universal, despite the culture differences.

For example, the word “danger” tells everything once people learned the meaning of this word. The color red deliver the same meaning under certain circumstances, but one has to connect the visual stimulations to the emotion aroused by it. However, the effect differs from culture to culture for both languages and visual imageries. Like the English word “chair” means “flesh” in French, the color yellow represents royal in Asia but death in Latin America. Wrong messages will be sent if designers did not pay attention.

Visual symbols are used to convey design concepts by product designers. Emotions triggered by colors and mental associations generated by shapes and textures were influenced by individuals’ intuition, experiences, gender and culture. Although globalization had blurred the lines of some culture differences, symbols embedded in people’s subconscious that will not change easily. It is possible that a product will be rejected by the market if the shapes, colors or patterns offended the culture.

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