Short Book Review: The Semantic Turn

Reading Klaus Krippendorff’s The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design, I am struck by two realizations: one, that the theory behind design that he offers seems quite brilliant to me; and two, that it was only very recently that something clicked in my head such that I was able to understand what the hell he was saying at all. It’s not that he writes with the practiced complexity of French theorists—actually, he’s relatively straightforward—but he is so to-the-point that the text is quite dense with ideas. Moreover, if you’re the kind of reader who just skips every sentence that starts something like, “According to Heidegger…”, then you won’t get very far. However, a patient reader who is undaunted by abstract claims (before he starts offering concrete examples) will be rewarded with a theoretical treatise that explains what could potentially unify so many different fields and practices of professional designers, and how this theory could lead to more sensible products, from websites to furniture and beyond. Of course, it’s a hardcover by an academic press—i.e., priced as if it were printed on pages woven from pure gold—so you should hit up the library for this one.

[…] all product design is fundamentally about the creation of interfaces (according to people who are way smarter than I am). Making a milk jug which saves costs and materials is great—but if it doesn’t […]