Design Messages (01-28-22)

Although much of Danesi’s book focuses on communication via body language, facial expressions, and interpersonal zones/distancing, there are sections that directly address design’s nonverbal messaging.  Danesi shares, for example that “The fact that social groups build and design their abodes and public edifices of their villages, towns, and cities in characteristic ways is an indication that these are meaningful proxemic structures. A building is hardly ever perceived by the members of a society as simply a pile of bricks, wood, straw, etc., put together to provide shelter.  Rather, its shape, size, features, and location are perceived to be signs or sign vehicles that refer to a range of culture-specific proxemics meanings.  Buildings are, in effect, artificial extensions of those who inhabit them. This applies as well to public spaces, which are felt to be extensions of a ‘community body.’ . . . Spatial codes also assign tasks and functions to specific locales, as well as how to behave and appear in them, including dress, language, etc. They give coherence and purpose to social activities and routines, producing recognizable effects on how people experience places—the space in one’s home feels more personal than the space in a bank; at a party, a feast, or a traditional ceremony people assume the social personae that they are either assigned or expected to play, including what clothes to wear, etc. . . . A home is . . . . an extension of character, as indicated by its layout, design, material objects, etc.  It is felt, therefore, to be an extension of the body’s protective armor and the personality of the inhabitant.  . . .  When people build and decorate their homes, they are primarily engaged in making images of themselves to suit their own eyes and to present themselves through them to others.”

Marcel Danesi.  2022.  Understanding Nonverbal Communication – A Semiotic Guide.  Bloomsbury:  London, England.