Product Semantics

Product semantics meaning

The form of an object can be more than just "styling" - it can communicate meaning.

Product semantics is an attempt to convey what a product is or does through its form. Following this method, the designer uses shape, texture, materials, and color to convey meaning. A designer using product semantics in place of mere "styling" creates products that are understandable and engaging.

The goal is to make products intuitive, that is the user knows how a product works and what it does without instructions. Product semantics can tell the user about the product's:
Identity: What is the object (e.g. a chair)
Character: What kind of chair is it (e.g. a lounge chair)
Affordance: What benefit does the object give me? (e.g. relaxation)
Operation: How do I use it?

Remember: If it needs a label to show how it works, a product is poorly designed.

Want to learn more?

On the Essential Context of Things, Klaus Krippendorff
Designing Products to Afford Meanings, Charles Burnette
The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman

See also:
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