In school, we had a course on semiotics, the study of signs. I need to write this down because it has not clicked in my mind yet. 😉 The difference between teaching and learning I guess.
A sign is something that can stand for and/or communicate something about something else. A sign is made up of two things. The signifier is the physical form of something, the objective form that exists in the outer world. The signified is the subjective form and exists in our inner world. It is the meaning and concept of the signifier. 🙂
It is what it means. It is the thing itself and what it communicates. It is a clue of something that is not present. A partition line on your Airpod case that indicates where to open it, or to point your finger at something you mean to draw attention to that very thing and nothing else.
An icon resembles what it means. When you make a gesture with your hand into a gun, your hand resembles the shape of a gun and so it is an icon for a gun.
A symbol is not what it means. It has a meaning that is a reference to something else. This meaning has to be taught. For example, we know a cross stands for religion but it is not something that is evident in the actual symbol.
How the sign is influenced by its context. We read the same object differently depending on what environment it is in currently. For example, wearing a bathing suit on a beach and in the middle of the city reads very differently. 😉
What and how the sign communicates. It can describe and illustrate a function, encourage us to take a specific action, express a certain type of style or user, and identify a specific type of use or persona.
How the sign is interpreted in a group of similar items. In a group of shoes, how does one shoe differentiate itself?
The school assignment was to make a haptic robot, the haptics being the vibration, movement, and sound it made. Plus to apply the knowledge of semantics to direct how one would read the robot. Just like sketching, investigating by doing, focusing on the process of making rather than what the result looks like in the end. We were told to pay attention to what different emotions we got from being with our robot and how that changed when we altered its expression.