Ocula (http://www.ocula.it) is pleased to announce the call for
papers: “Semiotics for Design: how to teach it?”
Submission of the essays: 20 SEPTEMBER 2016 < NEW DEADLINE
Notification of acceptance, rejection or revision request: 15 October 2016
Scheduled Publication: 30 November 2016
Accepted languages: Italian, English,French
*Semiotics for Design: how to teach it?*
Editors: Michela Deni (Université de Nîmes), Salvatore Zingale
(Politecnico di Milano)
Semiotics has been inserted in industrial design university programs since
twenty years and more. In Italy, courses in semiotics can now be followed
at Milan Polytechnic, IUAV in Venice, Bologna University, ISIA in Florence
and Urbino, and other universities and higher education institutions.
Techings in semiotics can also be found in European and American design
Some decades before this widespread adoption, semiotics was already taught
in some schools of project, as by Umberto Eco in the 1960s (in Milan and
Florence Universities’ Schools of Architecture) and Tomàs Maldonado in Ulm
in the 1950s.
In the last twenty years, however, design has changed. Today the design
approach is not confined to industrial or communication artefacts and
aesthetically relevant, high-quality, formally refined consumption goods.
Design has broadened its scope to encompass the project of living spaces,
working places, events, food, new media and clothing, in short most, and
potentially the whole sphere, of social life.
The latest definition of Industrial Design, by the Icsid (International
Council of Societies of Industrial Design), is the following: «Industrial
Design is a strategic problem-solving process that drives innovation,
builds business success and leads to a better quality of life through
innovative products, systems, services and experiences». From this
definition we clearly infer that design is a method or process whose aim is
to make the world more liveable (also in the anthropological sense) and
improve the quality of life, through any sort of means: products, systems,
services, experiences. And the list might continue.
The purposes of design, actually, have evolved and expanded in time, often
following people’s specific needs. Today design has set its goal beyond the
classical beautiful/useful pair of values, aiming at a wider range:
comfort, safety, interaction, environment sustainability, inclusion, social
innovation, accessibility (to services and information). Such changes, of
course, have pushed the development of new design practices, that, in their
turn, imply new methods, particularly in the field of social design:
co-design, self-production and DIY. These practices have also produced new
social and professional organisations, like the FabLabs, where the makers
gather, often mixing the roles of designer, producer and user.
In this frame the contribution of semiotics to the training of designers
plays a decisive role, if only because industrial design leads to the
production of “social objects”, conditioning and determining the ways we
act and think, modifying interactions and habits and affecting values and
beliefs. In other words, the new services, devices and objects continuously
reshape the relationships we entertain with other persons and with tangible
and intangible objects, on both the semantic and pragmatic level.
To these considerations we must add that, from a theoretical point of view,
issues and topics traditionally belonging to semiotics progressively emerge
in the field of design. The most fashionable seems to be, today, the
Storytelling approach, but marginal aspects of the semiotic theory are also
evident in Design thinking and Scenario-Based Design.
Thus, taking into account the more than twenty-year old presence of
semiotics in the schools of design and project, today it might be useful to
pose a general question, around which the thematic issue we are launching
will revolve: “Is it possible to identify a set of semiotic methods to be
used in design?”
Starting from this general question, which the Ocula editors as an
independent group of scholars has already begun to answer (See the books:
Michela Deni and Giampaolo Proni, La semiotica e il progetto. Design,
comunicazione, marketing, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2008; Cinzia Bianchi,
Federico Montanari, Salvatore Zingale, La semiotica e il progetto 2. Spazi,
oggetti, interfacce, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2010), we welcome the
contributions by scholars with a semiotic background who have taught or
teach in design programs. We will also accept, as is our costume,
contributions by scholars from other disciplines -first of all industrial
design- who, when teaching in design courses, have adopted or used topics
that can dialogue with semiotics.
The contributions to submit can be developed by taking as an example one of
the following points, considering that, however, they are supposed to
explain and discuss how the chosen topic can lead to a more complete
training of designers:
1. Present a semiotic subject that you think to be particularly useful and
fruitful in the teaching of design. It is also possible to put together
more than one subject, always keeping in view the final coherence of themes
2. Report on a real teaching experience, that may include field and case
studies, particularly if the approach has been experimental, or in the form
of laboratories or workshops from which it was possible to draw and share
3. Propose topics and problems in the teaching of design that, though they
would require some “semiotic attention”, yet do not receive it or receive
it in an inefficient way.
The acceptance of the articles and their publication is subject to blind
The Authors can find all the editing and format rules at the page “Come si
collabora”, on the home page. The page includes an Italian, English and
French text. Please read it carefully and follow the recommendations.
There are no official limits of length to the articles, yet we recommend
40.000 characters as a reasonable maximum measure (including spaces, notes
Files format accepted are .doc, docx, .odt;
The articles may include any kind of images;
Images (photographies, graphs, tables) must be included in the main text
file and submitted each as a separate file, in .jpg, .png, .tif, .eps, .psd
The Authors must send their contribution in two versions: one in anonymous
form, to be sent to the reviewers, and the other containing name, position,
email, website, biographic notes. Each version must be a separate file.
In the anonymous file, in any reference to the Author’s publications the
name must be cancelled and replaced by “Author” and the titles by “Title of
the publication”. The date must be let visible.
To write the articles please use the templates and that can also be
downloaded from the page “Come si collabora”.
Articles must be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org