Design and Translation









Design as translation activity: a semiotic overview

Salvatore Zingale

Politecnico di Milano

Keywords: semiotics, interpretation, design, translation studies


The paper originates from the following question: can the design activity, intended as an inventive and project-making activity, also be viewed as a form of translation? To answer such a question we are compelled to overcome a paradox, because design does not involve a transfer from a source text from which it translates. Design generally acts like a translator and interpreter of social needs that previously existed as unstructured, non-textual, open-ended entities, thus exposed to uncertainty and incoherence and striving through design to acquire a proper structure, i.e., a textual form. From the extensive literature on the subject in semiotics and linguistics, here we will select and outline only the fundamental semiotic models that could help us overcome the paradox, at least from a theoretical viewpoint, and provide a plausible answer to our opening question.

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Zingale, S (2016). Design as translation activity: a semiotic overview. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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