Design as communication: exploring the validity and utility of relating intention to interpretation

Crilly, Nathan; Good, David; Matravers, Derek and Clarkson, P. John (2008). Design as communication: exploring the validity and utility of relating intention to interpretation. Design Studies, 29(5) pp. 425–457.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2008.05.002

Abstract

This explores the role of intention in interpreting designed artefacts. The relationship between how designers intend products to be interpreted and how they are subsequently interpreted has often been represented as a process of communication. However, such representations are attacked for allegedly implying that designers' intended meanings are somehow ‘contained’ in products and that those meanings are passively received by consumers. Instead, critics argue that consumers actively construct their own meanings as they engage with products, and therefore that designers' intentions are not relevant to this process. In contrast, this article asserts the validity and utility of relating intention to interpretation by exploring the nature of that relationship in design practice and consumer response. Communicative perspectives on design are thereby defended and new avenues of empirical enquiry are proposed.

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