This term was commonly used by industrial designers from the 1980s onwards and indicated an increasing preoccupation with gaining an understanding of the ways in which form, decoration, colour, and other visible features of products could communicate additional meaning to consumers and users. The study of product semantics derives from the linguistic analyses of the structuralist Ferdinand de Saussure and the highly influential writings of Roland Barthes from the 1950s, particularly Mythologies (1957). The fact that this was not translated into English until the early 1970s goes some way to explaining why its influence gathered potency in the 1970s and 1980s. Its implications were explored in the context of advertising in Judith Williamson's widely read text Decoding Advertisements (1978),See also Semiotics.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.