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Color and Semiotics

Date: 30-May-2008/14:44+3:00

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Characters: me, merchant

A dream discussion about Google's color-coded aesthetic reminded me of my belief in the importance of Semiotics. Simply put, semiotics is the study of signaling processes--and how the symbols around us carry meanings.
Some people would say that anything can be misinterpreted, and thus everything is arbitrary. Yet in my view, meaning can be constructed and applied. I think that using symbols carefully can improve the chance of meaning being preserved when an object is taken out of context, or modified. Doing a proper job gives us discernment and builds worlds where communication is possible.
Note I do know the CIA thinks pretty carefully about how to make flyers, such as these warnings which were scattered all over Hiroshima prior to bombing it.
Look at this picture of hot and cold water taps both drawing off of a cold water pipe, where the labeling of red and blue have no meaning:
I often feel like the uneducated villager in a country without running hot water who goes to the store and puzzles over the red and blue taps they sell.
me: "I need yellow. That would coordinate with the color scheme in my bathroom."
merchant: "These come in red and blue only."
me: "Could you order me a yellow one?"
merchant: "I have never seen one. We can't special order, the taps we get are dropped from the sky and always are blue and red."
Perhaps I'd go all over to every shop in town trying to find a yellow one, only to see that I can't get anyone to sell me anything other than red or blue. But perhaps at one store I see an interesting thermometer.
I may draw the conclusion that the taps were constructed in a place that has not only cold water infrastructure, but some kind of hot water infrastructure. But with no way to prove it, because no one in my country believes such a thing exists. I'm stopped at every turn because I have no way to get out of the country without being shot at the border.
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