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Beyond What We Can See

Our life is filled with acts whether for leisure, productivity or for reflection of ourselves. We live so automatically from one of these acts to another and it’s hard to imagine our life vacuum of it. It should be impossible to have a life by doing nothing. Even doing nothing is an act of itself.

In all that doing, we are helped by things or objects that surround us. Created or provided by services, businesses, or even personal relations. These tangible things are touchpoints functioning as the lighthouse to our brain and our body to move. It gives cues and directs us in doing each of our moves with less-conscious efforts. Without these things, our brain will be forced to do extra work in processing “how to do an action” and in doing all micro moves with consciousness is a highway to a burning brain.

These things can be anything. From street signage, to a curve at your fridge’s door. From a light switch to a TV remote. Then, how do these things communicate with us and successfully help us accomplish our task? How does signage let us know we are not lost through a small red dot? How does a curve at the fridge’s door mean it’s where we put our hands to open it? How does a bevel in a light switch mean it’s the side you should push to turn off the light? How does a number or an alphabet help you push the right button to HBO?

It all came to the semantic of each thing. Essentially, semantic is a meaning to something, delivered in the form of text, shape, and objects. Now, all of the objects above carry meaning. It carries contents.

We may initially think that contents are text on a book or a bite-sized video in our social media feed, but contents go beyond that. It is the message, meaning, a point that the creator tries to get across to the users or consumers via its creation.

Designers, writers, marketers, crafters, and all professions which involve the creation of things should understand first what is the message they are trying to convey before actually creating something. Why? Other than giving the creation some weight and purpose, it is a way to appreciate the attention the user is spending on the creation in today’s increasingly packed time and space.

“We know that we live in complex times that demand complex thoughts and conversations—and those in turn, demand the very time and space that is nowhere to be found.” —Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing

In order to have that weight, it’s not necessary to always embed heavy and serious messages. It can always be as light and as entertaining as it needs to. It’s also important to note that aesthetic or a decor in an object can convey something such as elegance, class, taste, culture. As long as its motives are genuine and clear people will be able to relate and know if the message exists in the first place. Therefore, it’s even more fundamental to exercise the message before crafting the outcome.

It’s easy to notice “shell” designs and texts. Design that has shapes only for the sake of its shape. Texts that are nothing but words juggled into phrases. This usually gives people negative experience in consuming the creation. A feeling or a thought such as “what was that about?” “I am confused” often occurs after.

So, to avoid that, how do we craft the contents/messages of our creation?

(To be continued)


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