Functions of Design

The design has manifold applications and usages ranging from the most obvious or surface-level usages to the most subtle and indirect usages that have a far-reaching and deeper level impact. The significance of design lies in its ability to fulfill these demands whether aesthetic, teleological, or semiotic.

By aesthetics, it is broadly understood as it's sensory and beauty values i.e. concerned with the judgment of visual taste, here it is meant as the sensory appreciation of graphic design. While by the functionality it is meant that the practical aspects of a given graphic design such as usability, communicability, readability, and making an impact and its efficiency lie in its ability to do so. The design has a function as well as some purpose. 

In theoretical terms, the ability of design to fulfill the function or purpose is called the ‘teleology’ of design. Apart from the above two, there is one more aspect of design called ‘content’ or meaning of design that can be broadly called a semiotic value of design.

A simple discussion might elaborate on this case food has a taste that caters to our taste buds which is a sensory quality of food. Sometimes the color of food is attractive therefore we like it and some other times we get attracted to it because it is arranged in a beautiful manner. Aroma, taste, and decoration or garnishing cater to our sensory expectations.

Food also has nutritional value that is concerned with supplying energy to the body that helps in its overall physical growth and maintenance of general health and work efficiency and at times such food may not be visually attractive. Now if the food is cooked by a mother, sister, or wife, then it has a special meaning and highly personal significance attached to it. At times it may not be nutritious and properly decorated. Still the food will have its own unique signature which is the semiotic value of the food.

The illustration (above) is just suggestive since in reality, a good food will have all three components in it. For example,  when a mother prepares a special dish for her children she is concerned about its taste; its nutritional contents as well as she will serve it to her children with due care, love and affection.

Let us take another example. If there is a signage system for a sports event such as the Olympics Games or the Asian games to be designed then while designing such a system, a graphic designer has to consider the above-mentioned aspects of design form (aesthetics), function (teleology), and the content (semiotics). For instance, while designing the signage for sports such as hockey, football, etc. the visual symbols should be properly designed in the given space. Each dot, line, or shape should look beautiful and properly composed. It should be visually balanced and very neatly and beautifully done. Also, there is a series of such symbols then a designer has to maintain a visual consistency among all the symbols. These are the formal aspects of signage the ‘aesthetics’ of a signage system.

Apart from that the main function of the sign is to communicate the message and the users should be able to recognize the particular sport easily as well as the signage should be able to guide the users. This is the functional aspect of the signage – the ‘teleology’ of the signage system. 

Any sports event and especially events such as the Olympic games are organized to spread the spirit of sportsmanship, peace, and harmony. Now while designing the signage the graphic designer has to take care of the spirit of the games, its history, and its socio-cultural significance that can be properly expressed through appropriate color schemes, and a suitable style of depicting visual elements such as dots, lines, shapes etc. In other words a graphic designer has to develop an appropriate visual language suitable for the theme or the  content. This is the semiotics of the signage system.

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