My ‘Christmas Shopping’ lecture asked us to question the ‘value’ of presents. From a quick ‘put your hands up’ exercise we all noticed that our favorite gifts were not the expensive gifts we had ever had. In fact, most of the things we treasured were actually worth very little. It was the meaning behind them – who bought it, why they bought it etc.
This idea was reinforced when I picked up the metro on the subway in Glasgow. The front page had an open letter written by Sarah Jane Fields to “the man who stole my car on Wednesday”. The point of the letter was that she actually didn’t care too much about her car. What she cared about was that without the car (and because of the fuss of having it stolen) she was unable to visit her father before he died.
This is where the meaning of ‘meaning’ comes in and as a designer this is something I will need to get to grips with. From this story I can recognize a hierarchy of meaning, or perhaps link is the right word. Her car meant she could visit her father who meant everything to her. The cars function, in the specific situation of her life, at the time (when the man stole it) meant that it actually also meant everything to her. More meaning than usual was reflected onto her car if you like.
This will teach me to not only consider the meaning of whatever I am designing but also the possible meanings which it could have.
(Sarah’s story: www.metro.co.uk