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Rob Tovey wonders: <<Does communication design use a restricted
Depends entirely on how narrowly you're defining "restricted". The
reductio ad absurdum is that if you're using a standard dictionary,
then you are using a restricted (but not "very" <g>) language. The
other extreme might be something like the AECMA simplified English
vocabulary, which is quite tightly constrained.
Careful with your use of jargon in framing questions! Jargon only works
well if everyone shares your vocabulary. If you're writing for a
different discourse community <g>, you need to define your terms.
<<In terms of semiotics, does this type of design use a very particular
paradigm that can be prescriptive?>>
Any form of technical writing uses a form of prescriptive semiotics in
the sense that we tend to restrict our freedom to use synonyms, tend to
identify functional words such as menu choices and button names using
formatting (e.g., italics, keycaps fonts) or other devices, and follow
certain stereotyped "best practices" for grammar (e.g., active or
So again, define how narrowly you're using "prescriptive". This
distinction can be as simplistic as saying you use a prescriptive
dictionary such as some Webster's volumes or a descriptive one such as
American Heritage or something much more highbrow.
<<Is there a Modernist mindset that's defined by an idea of the "best"
way to communicate?>>
Again, define "Modernist" (as opposed to pomo?) and "best" way. As
professional communicators, we all clearly aim to communicate as
clearly as we possibly can, and that's the tautological "best way".
<<Should communication design forget a universal, global approach and
instead target niche groups, using niche language?>>
The current mindset is that we should strive to understand each unique
audience (technical vs. non, academic vs. non, expert vs. non)
sufficiently well that we can pick a form of communication (i.e.,
design the communication) to optimally meet their needs. Similarly,
translators recognize that because of the wide variety of local
dialects of any language, it's preferable (and often necessary) to
localize a translation to use appropriate language for each dialect.
For some situations, however, such as the 5-million-volume <g> set of
maintenance and operating instructions for a modern aircraft, neither
of these approaches is an option, so something like the AECMA
simplified English approach is necessary. The ideal might be
instantaneous and perfect translation and localization into each of
(potentially) hundreds of dialects; the reality is that this won't be
happening anytime soon, and something like simplified English is a
<<If you look at certain leading KD furniture manufacturers, although
their consumers are different, the instructions are of an identical
Not familiar with KD, but I assume you mean the approach used by Ikea?
Again, you need to define what you mean "format": Do you mean the
visual presentation (e.g., text-free illustration, thus visual
semiotics) or linguistic presentation (i.e., textual semiotics)? And
you need to consider what the goal of this effort is: To cheap out and
avoid translation costs, or to design something that communicates so
well in visual symbols that no words are required?
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