Do relationships between brands and consumers arise naturally, or are they designed? If the goal of design is to influence, modify, and drive behavior, shouldn’t we explore the meaning of those underlying interactions?
The idea that designed elements must be easy to interpret has greater potential for consumers and brands than just ensuring that a website or web application is usable. Designing interfaces that are usable is important, but what if there is more to designing a successful user experience than merely ensuring that it is usable?
At FutureM in Boston, on October 25th, 2012, Roundarch Isobar hosted a panel discussion titled “Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences: The Semiotics of UX,” which explored these ideas along with questions such as:
- Do relationships between brands and consumers arise naturally, or are they designed?
- If the goal of design is to influence, modify, and drive behavior, shouldn’t we explore the meaning generated by those underlying interactions?
- How do evolving paradigms such as gestural and natural user interfaces (NUIs), wearable tech, and pervasive social media affect the relationship between consumers and brands?
CREATING MEANINGFUL #UXsemiotics #FutureMDIGITAL EXPERIENCESTHE SEMIOTICS OF UX
WELCOME #UXsemiotics @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 2-‐ Thank everyone for coming, especially like to thank our hosts: FutureM, event sponsors-‐ As the session <tle states, we are going to spend the next hour and a half talking about Crea%ng Meaningful Digital Experiences through the lens of semio<cs.
Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences Agenda • Initial presentation • Speaker presentations (45 minutes) - Josh Glenn - Thomas Wendt - Katie McIntyre • Panel discussion • Q&A @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 3We have a liCle less than 90 minutes, and our plan is to spend the ﬁrst half or so listening to our panelists, maybe spend a few minutes kicking some ideas around up here, and then open the discussion for ques<ons from you.
Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences First Presentation• A bit about Roundarch Isobar• What is semiotics (brieﬂy)?• Why semiotics and UX?• Why it matters• Our panelists@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 4
We are an agency of 3,000 creatives and creators bringing people and brands together like never before… …with ofﬁces in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York, and 34 countries around the world. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 6Roundarch Isobar is the North American incarna<on of what is known globally as Isobar.
What we do — Roundarch Isobar conceives, designs, and builds digital experiences for the world’s largest organizations. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 7-‐ We work with companies like adidas, Fidelity Investments, HBO, and Motorola-‐ OK, so thats that. Here’s a segue you don’t hear everyday: let’s talk about semio<cs!
WHAT IS SEMIOTICS? (BRIEFLY) @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 8Emphasis on brieﬂy.
What is semiotics? se•mi•ot•ics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation“ Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign.” – Umberto Eco • What is a sign?@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 9
Not a sign, but a sign system Pierce’s Semiotic Triad Meaning Object Symbol @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 10Let’s illustrate this using a treeSymbol -‐ The word or image represen<ng the treeObject -‐ The tree itselfMeaning or Interpreta<on -‐ The idea of a tree (which in itself can become a symbol...the tree of life, tree falling in the woods, and so on)-‐-‐-‐Great for studying language and communica<on, but what about UX?
Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful Usable Intuitive Valuable @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 12A semio<c view of user experience is not new, but it is not o]en discussed. Don Norman popularized the idea with his use of “aﬀordances” in his 1988 book “The Design of Everyday Things”-‐ At the level of tac<cs and implementa<on, the greatest aspira<on for any user experience is usually “value.”
Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful Usable Intuitive Valuable Meaningful Memorable @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 13For both brands and users/consumers, aspiring to have merely usable experiences is sefng the bar low. Consumers may not ask for meaningful and memorable experiences, but they do appreciate them. For brands, providing memorable experiences is cri<cal to standing out from the compe<<on and for engendering long-‐las<ng rela<onships with their customers.
Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful “ Meaning is at the heart of consumer behavior. Yet meaning is not a manufactured, concrete given. Meaning is up for negotiation and interpretation, and the role of the individual in the creation of meaning is a very active one.” – Mark Batey, Brand Meaning (2008) @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 14Which gets us back to brand and the role of UX. If user experience is by its very nature INTERACTIVE and if meaning is generated during interac<ons, the beCer ques<on might be why NOT a semio<c approach to UX?
Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• Digital experiences aren’t just tools or services, they are media; they are means of communication. As media, they should be studied and understood in that way.• The medium is still the message...but what is the meaning?@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 17
Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• Because a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization,” brands are deﬁned by the experiences they engender…and those experiences are increasingly delivered digitally.@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 18
Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• More and more, digital experiences are personal and intimate. The “relationship” between consumer and brand is becoming less useful as a metaphor and more of a reality.• As marketing and design professionals, it behooves us to understand the effect we have on that relationship.@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 19
Joshua Glenn Semiotic Brand Analyst, King Mixer LLC @HILOBROW • Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based editor, publisher, and a freelance writer and semiologist. Hes worked in commercial semiotics, as a U.S. cultural and brand decoding expert, since 1999. • A former Boston Globe columnist and editor, he is cofounder of the cultural criticism blog HiLobrow and the international culture and brand semiotics website Semionaut. • Hes written and edited several books, most recently Signiﬁcant Objects and Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. In the 90s Joshua was co-producer of the DIY and social networking startup Tripod.com, and he published the zine Hermenaut. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 21Born and raised in Boston, Josh is here today because he likes a challenge — and cracking the semio<c codes of user experience is an increasingly important one.Josh works frequently with agencies and consultancies like Fresh Squeezed Ideas (Toronto), Space Doctors (Brighton, England), and Consumer Eyes (New York). Non-‐disclosure agreements prevent him from gefng speciﬁc, but he has consulted on dozens of brands — from chocolate milk to beer, from automo<ve to credit cards, and from womens razors to erec<le dysfunc<on pharmaceu<cals. He also decodes cultural and communica<ons themes like "powerful relief," "healthy food pleasure," and "super-‐premiumness."
Thomas Wendt UX Strategist, Surrounding Signiﬁers @thomas_wendt • Thomas Wendt is the founder of Surrounding Signiﬁers, a UX strategy and product development shop in NYC. He works with startups, agencies, and large corporations to deﬁne strategic product vision and user experience design. • With a background in psychology, cultural studies, and comparative literature, his interests include contextual design, semiotics, and the future of the interface. Find him on Twitter or visit his website at surroundingsigniﬁers.com. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 22Thomas was born in Niagara Falls, NY, went to school in Minneapolis, MN, and has lived in NYC for about a year. He joined our panel because the interplay between UX and semio<cs has been on his mind for a few years. The two ﬁelds complement one another so well, and he wanted to be part of facilita<ng more discussion around them.Clients and accounts have included: IBM, Capital One, DIRECTV, LensCra]ers, and many startups
Katie McIntyre Brand & UX Strategist @mcintyrekm • Katie combines technology and an understanding of everyday human behavior to craft more natural, intuitive digital experiences. • She has worked in branding, advertising, and digital agencies with clients ranging from start-ups to organizations such as General Motors, the Department of Defense, and Microsoft. • Katie holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University and an M.A. in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 23Hickory, NC is Ka<e’s hometown, and she has lived in Washington DC for six years, which is an eternity for such a transient town.Ka<e joins us today because she thought the blend of linguis<cs, branding, and user experience was unique and intriguing. She is interested in contribu<ng to and learning from our panel as well as thinking more about how the diﬀerent disciplines could help each other. She has worked with brands like General Motors, Microso], Synchronoss, Defense advanced Research projects agency (DARPA), Great American Restaurants
Discuss Mediated Relationships @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 26If the ﬁrst introduc<on to a brand is through Google, if the next ﬁ]y are through the brand page on facebook or Amazon, what does that mean for your brand? What are the diﬀerences and similari<es for each of these media/technology intermediaries?
Discuss Locating the Experience UI UX vs. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 27Even if we examine the deﬁni<on of the terms user interface and user experience, we can see that there is a diﬀerence: the interface is *for* the user, but the experience must be *of* the user, at some level.
Discuss Representation & Metaphor @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 28Thinking about how informa<on is displayed to the user and the metaphors used in representa<on. Is there something worth talking about there with regard to UX and how brands communicate?
Discuss Natural User Interfaces @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 29Rather than look at the companies that mediate our rela<onships and interac<ons with brands, what about the devices that enable ever more natural and personal interac<ons?
THANK YOUContinue the discussion at #UXsemiotics@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 30