What Does Meaningful Mean?

An article from Design Mind on GOOD (Design Mind is a magazine from San Francisco design firm frog design and GOOD Magazine is, well, something everyone should get involved with) asked the question “What does meaningful mean?”  The article describes one of frog design’s periodic forums held to stimulate ideas and thinking. This particular forum asked what part meaning plays for designers and what does meaning itself derive from. They created a wonderful infographic illustrating their exploration. As you can see in frog design’s depiction of their conversations and discussion, the questions of what constitutes meaning, to whom, and how do we intentionally create meaning for a product, service or experience are important to all of us who want their work to resonate deeply.

adapted from frog design's illustration

For most us working to design brands, products, services or experiences, we work to develop an understanding of a given audience: their personalities, likes and dislikes, levels of trust, comfort range, etc. Then we need to understand the objectives and messaging we are tasked with achieving and expressing. Finally we generate some output that delivers to the audience and hopefully motivates them toward the objectives. Standard procedure. Where does meaning fit in? Who’s meaning?

Each of us has our own answers to those and other questions, the important thing is that the question is starting to be asked more frequently. For the last decade or so advertising, design, marketing and public relations creatives have been attempting to generate authenticity, honesty, emotional connections (and many other buzzwords and phrases) to build stronger connections between consumers and the products, services and brands that want to reach them.

At the core of all that, what we have all been struggling with is how to create meaning, through our work, that translates or transfers to our clients, then to their audiences and finally into the public realm where some form of change is affected. What we are excited to see and hear is that more people and firms are interested in not only asking “What does meaningful mean?” but are interested in finding ways to answer the question through their own work.

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