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October 17, 2010

How important is language?

Language is a powerful thing. Everyday we communicate thoughts, emotions, ideas and facts, often without thinking twice about the impact our words have. Language can be easily overlooked or constantly scrutinized, depending on who's listening. For better or worse our words often reverberate long after they're shared. In this inwords discussion we want to know how important you consider language to be in your daily life. Is it a unifying force or does it create barriers that must be overcome?

Participation is caring. Share your thoughts and help shape the dialogue in a meaningful way. Your contribution makes all the difference in building a stronger Design is Love community.

10.03.10 / 10:37 PM
Language has been instrumental in the development of the Design is Love community. We've been fortunate in finding members who are multilingual and willing to share the DIL movement with their friends and family, even if English isn't their primary language. What could be seen as an obstacle has driven us work hard on creating a visual language that is universal. The idea of sharing creativity and pouring your heart and soul into daily interaction transcends the barriers often associated with complex communication.

We really look forward to reading what you all have to say. Your words keep inwords interesting, and for that we are very thankful.
10.06.10 / 12:21 AM
Several things immediately come to mind!

First, the quote by Tibor Kalman - "Design is just language and the real issue is what you use that language to do."

Second, this weekend at A Better World by Design, a conference at the RISD and Brown University, one of the speakers [I forget which one] said to "learn a different language" which I think is very important. What he meant was to be able to speak to other people and just not be able to speak about design like how all designer speak about it.

Third, my favorite band is Sigur Ros, they are from Iceland and there music is in Icelandic. All of their songs I have no idea what they mean, I have decided not to look up the lyrics and instead feel the music through the notes and not the words. You should take a listen for sure.
10.06.10 / 8:47 AM
@ethanbodnar I've been thinking about that a lot, how we all need to be able to speak each other's language. Not only for designers (although we speak of that because it is what we know), but for anybody who considers themselves to be a specialist in a certain field. To be able to speak to the masses and have everybody relate to your message is very important. That is how meaningful conversations start happening, when you consciously enable the two-way aspect of it and you're not just rambling about what you know but listening with an open mind. We all have so much to learn from each other, this is at the core of collaboration and, most importantly, interdisciplinary collaboration.

Also, visual communication can be a very powerful tool. As designers, we should be aware of the responsibility we have to convey meaningful messages in our work. And I'm not using the term "meaningful" lightly. This applies to corporate communications, lost + found flyers and campaigns to change the world. Meaning should be at the core of what we do. By being aware of this power (and the responsibility that comes along with it) we can help other people understand it and shape what the future of our business will be > not "making things pretty" but thinking critically and using the tools we have to convey a desired message.

I'll be back. This conversation fascinates me :)
10.06.10 / 1:41 PM
The key to effective communication in any language is to understand the nuances. I believe it's the same for a good design, anyone can notice the big picture, but a good designer can notice, explain, recognize all the reasons it was made and what thinking went into it, the nuances of the design. For language, I've been immersed in the Deaf world for 20 years, and often it's not about the signs themselves but the facial expression that goes along with it can change the meaning to it's opposite, or add another dimension entirely to the conversation. For young deaf children with parents who don't know sign language, they often learn to communicate within families about the necessities of life (eat, sleep, the what where and when) but not the nuances. It saddens me when those families cannot communicate the why of things, or the emotions. Even after 20 years of using sign language intensely, I still miss things, both receptively and expressively.

But I'd say the most important aspect of all of this is to TRY. For me it isn't about language so much as it is about communication, and that can be done with a smile, a gesture, an outstretched hand.
10.09.10 / 6:44 PM
What kind of language? A spoken language? A visual language? A programming language? They are all incredibly important every day, in every way, because they are our means of communicating with each other.
10.11.10 / 8:46 AM
@LisaMikulski I think we're talking about any or all kinds of language. We'd love to hear more about your reasons, since you're a writer and language is probably super important in your practical day to day...
10.15.10 / 2:36 PM
Oh gosh Constanza, I could write a book on the subject! Huh... idea maybe. In the meanwhile, here's a great article on storytelling from Journalistics I thought you all might enjoy.

10.16.10 / 9:15 PM
Language is a complicated thing. It's a great unifier...and can also be an insurmountable separator. Throw in the nuances of spoken and unspoken (as karenh so thoughtfully shared) language and well...yikes, it gets even more complex. I've often wondered if things would get easier if we had one universal language, spread globally to open lines of communication. But what happens to the minutia of our specific cultures that we all so stubbornly hold on to? I fear that we'd have conflict on a mass scale as countries / regions / communities fight to prove their way is best...wait...sounds eerily familiar.

Here's something that has perplexed me since I realized that not everyone spoke English (still remember my first memory of hearing Polish). If you speak more than one language, what language do you think in? It fascinates me to contemplate that in your head you'd think in Langauge A then be able to respond verbally in Language B. Anyone in the Design is Love community speak multiple languages? I'll check back soon, I'm going to head out and grab the Italian Rosetta Stone.
10.17.10 / 1:07 PM
@ karenh > i really enjoyed reading what you had to say about the nuances.

i just finished reading this series of books called the long quartet series. in the story, there is a nation of people that have a sign language that accompanies their spoken language. it consisted of facial expressions, bows and hand positions that went along with what they were orally communicating. the real message was all in the nuances, the details. i thought that was a fantastic element of the book that can obviously be applied to life. that is, really listening and paying attention.

@ tmonroe > i only speak english. however, i find that my thoughts are spoken in two languages: english (words) and feelings.

when i am thinking in english, i am typically not in a positive frame-of-mind. usually i'm brooding over conversations that have happened or that haven't and constantly reworking what i should've said and the language is never living in a positive light. this is when i am lost to the world.

the good thinking (and communicating), for me, is done with emotions. this is when my thoughts and the message i want to convey usually can be represented in an embrace. a kiss. maybe it is even in the shedding of tears (like right now) because i am actually communicating what it is that i want to express. i think back to what @richh spoke about in the inwords topic regarding what sense he'd keep and that was touch. i have a better understanding of what he was communicating and for that, i'd love to hug him.
10.17.10 / 8:42 PM
@tmonroe: I am multilingual... I started with french and introduced english when I was about 3. Language has always been a cornucopia for me from which to draw specificity of meaning. There are things I want to express that I can only do precisely in French... other ideas only in english.

Hopefully, I'll have time to write more before this post is down. But, in case I don't—research Universal Language from Noam Chomskey


We'll post the topic to start the conversation. Where it goes is up to you.

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