Material Voice: Communicating with Substrates

Meridyth Espindola
Graduate student
Vermont College of Fine Arts
BFA, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

In the context of graphic design, we translate material significance through substrate semiotics. While substrates are necessary for the representation of visual art and design, that’s not all they do. They also send messages through visual and haptic communication. We can prioritize the consideration of substrate communication earlier in our processes by thinking more critically about design platforms and how they impact the overall message.

Approaching design processes through this lens allows us to tap into a deeper level of communication that engages multiple layers of meaning. When we approach communication from the bottom up, we are able to seek out objects and materials with powerful significance rather than relying on applying our own meaning to them. If substrates are always communicating, what opportunities do we have as designers to integrate them into our process from the beginning rather than waiting until the end?