I Just Cut my Finger in a Ninja Fight: The Semiotics and Hermeneutics of the Band-Aid

Jonathan Ventura and Galit Shvo

Punctum, 4(1): 179-201, 2018
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2018.0011


In the last decades, semiotic theories have become an important instrument in the designers’ toolkit. Influencing theory and practice of an array of design disciplines, ranging from urban design to visual communications and service design, semiotics influenced theory and practice alike. Yet, after realizing the ease with which designers use these theories, as well as some key theoretical concepts ignored by researchers, such as Barthes’ ‘semioclastics’, i.e. the deconstruction of a symbol or a semiotic system, a reframing of design semiotics should be considered. In this article, we wish to present an overall theoretical umbrella of hermeneutic practice, including three layers: classic semiotics, semioclastics and design situation. While the first two present various disadvantages, the third could be an important addition to healthcare design. Taking under consideration that, in general, design deals with questions of usability, we wish to portray the changes in attitude towards the product and its sign, while looking through a ‘semioclastics filter’. Furthermore, we would like to broaden the reach and potential of design theory and motivation through a dialogue between semiotic knowledge and hermeneutic interpretation. The shift of attention from the economic or market-oriented approach to a socio-cultural one calls for a different definition of the designer’s role as a problem solver. A first step is to view the role of the designer not only as a mediator or a translator of needs and constraints, but as a material and visual interpreter. Focusing on a ‘design situation’, rather than the designing of a product, leads us to consider various layers of design, one of which is the socio-cultural context and the ability to harness the various design partners in co-interpreting the design situation in a new way and suggest their own interpretation with design tools, methodologies and thinking. Through the design of the band-aid we will show this theoretical and practical shift from semiotics to hermeneutics in the field of healthcare design.

KEYWORDS: semiotics, hermeneutics, healthcare design, design situation
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