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by Tim Spencer| Brighton, UK
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
tags: art & design, europe, experts & agencies, making sense, network, semiotics
Where are you and what are you doing?
At my command console; the Panopticon, remotely directing global operations. I transmit codes via satellite network, which get picked up by semiotic agents. Really though, I'm tidying my desk. Its covered in everyone else's rubbish, as usual.
How did you first become interested in semiotics?
Every design course comes with a semiotics primer. Then I worked for Paul Smith as a designer after college. I was at the bottom of a chain of command, so I began exploring the landscape to see where the constant need for creative production stemmed from. I worked in brand consultancies and advertising agencies and travelled up the ladder of job titles to creative director, before jumping off.
I was always a combination of creative, strategic and theory. My best work could never be printed in a portfolio. My best work is presented verbally. Visual things date quickly, relevance and potency get bleached. I was always looking for ways to work with ideas instead of shapes. Just recently I found my way into a semiotics lead environment.
Describe a working day as a visual culture analyst in commercial semiotics
My favourite day is when project teams work verbally on the raw ingredients of a project, moulding thoughts and insights into meaningful, well-rooted opportunities.
Has semiotics triggered any changes in how you as a practitioner think about or implement design?
No, but it galvanised my theory that design delivers a rigid solution down a pipeline. It locks down more than it opens up.
Semiotics offers multiple lines of enquiry. It reveals how different strings of cultural significance influence everything. Things are constantly shifting when you look at those influences at work.
The creative imperative I set out to find springs from this unstable cultural landscape. Change needs to be observed, understood, and put to work. Semiotics is the way in which we harness the evolving landscape.
Tell us about the image you've chosen…
Franklin Chang-Diaz. Franklin: a mix of feudal middle-English, Anglo-Norman and French-Germanic root syllables. Chang: Chinese, one of the most ancient hereditary surnames in the world. Diaz: Hebraic origins, thoroughly Hispanic.
He’s a Costa Rican-American physicist, the first Hispanic NASA astronaut, and record holder for the most spaceflights.
Diverse ancestral threads, intertwined to create a unique man. Some might argue his ancestry has nothing to do with his achievements. Others might suggest he represents the perfect cocktail of cultural imperatives that enable a person to become the most frequently travelled astronaut in history.
Where can you see applied semiotics evolving in future?
We are already seeing semiotic thinking influencing social and political situations. I think there are pressing global concerns that require a radical new angle of approach. Semiotics could have some answers. We’ll need a semiotics superhero. Lets not forget Superman ‘wikileaked’ the KKK in the 1940's via a weekly radio show.
Is it true you used to be the drummer for Black Sabbath?
No, but I once played electro-sax on a T'Pau single.