The Semiotics of Branding in Product Design: from the Design Idiom to the Sign Code (Η σημειωτικη του branding στο σχεδιασμο προϊοντων: απο το σχεδιαστικο ιδιωμα στο νοηματικο κωδικα)
In today's social and cultural context of the post-modern era and mass communication, more and more people recognize themselves in the brands that they choose and dedicate to their values and meanings. According to the President of Nissan (Riley 1994), when buying a product, the aspiring consumer joins a system of values that the company represents, while according to J.Baudrillard, in consumer society "needs no longer aim at objects but in values, and the satisfaction of these needs has the meaning of joining these values” (Baudrillard 2000). The increased interaction with the media not only resulted in the breakdown of traditional modes of social communication, but also provided access to a wider range of possible lifestyles to which consumers could aspire in their search for renewed social and individual identities. More than ever before, design and designers aligned themselves with the mass media and played a central role within the construction of the numerous lifestyles on offer . The main goal of industrial design is shifting from the object to the image, communication and branding. As Naomi Klein explained in her best selling book of 2001 on the subject of global branding, describing the operations of a new kind of corporation – Microsoft, Tommy Hilfiger and Intel among them – ‘What these companies produced primarily were not things ... but images of their brands. Their real work lay not in manufacturing but in marketing.’ The new relationship established between design and consumption is described in the texts of Zygmunt Bauman, according to whom "what is being sold is not just the direct use value of the product itself, but its symbolic significance as a building-block of a particular cohesive lifestyle - as its indispensable ingredient” (Bauman in Sparke 2004). Although branding is nowadays associated with marketing and the proposed goods, the strongest mechanism of branding construction is primarily no other than the design of the product itself: in other words, the design language and its individual idioms commissioned to communicate the values of the brand in which the public is invited to join (Λιαμάδης 2013). This paper attempts to dive into the charming world of industrial design in order to decipher those elements of design and styling that give objects their distinctive corporate identity and its signifieds. Brand semiosis is analyzed hereby as part of the of the industrial design curriculum through the case study of an educational project that the author has developed in the course of his modules in the MSc in Strategic Product Design in the International Hellenic University - IHU, as well as in the School of Visual and Applied Arts and the School of Architecture of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In the course of this project, the student is introduced into the brand design mechanisms and is then assigned to select a company with distinctive identity and attempt to transfer the elements of this identity in a completely new product. This object, albeit foreign to the usual range of the company’s products (such as a Husqvarna baby-bottle, a Ferrari prosthetic leg or a Louis Vuitton toaster), should reflect the brand values, identity and design language, remaining instantly recognizable as a product of this company. In this way, the narration of branding emerges as a creative process of converting design idioms into semiotic codes and vice versa.
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Sparke P., “An Introduction to Design and Culture”, 2nd edition, Routledge, Great Britain, 2004, σελ. 129
Bauman Z., όπως αναφέρεται στο Warde A., “Consumers, identity and belongings: reflections on some thesis of Zygmunt Bauman”, στο Keat R., Whiteley N. and Abercrombie N., “The Authority of the Consumer”, Routledge, London and New York, 1994, όπως αναφέρεται στο Sparke P., “An Introduction to Design and Culture”, 2nd edition, Routledge, Great Britain, 2004, σελ. 133
Λιαμάδης Γ., “Πολιτισμός της Αυτοκίνησης: Design & Styling”, University Studio Press, Θεσσαλονίκη, 2013, σελ.234
3rd International Conference & Exhibition on Semiotics and Visual Communication “Branded, the semiotics of branding”, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus