Applying Traditions to Cover Design

After reviewing all of the seven traditions, I still find the semiotic component the most beneficial, but now I also have found the phenomenological tradition helpful as well. I will explain how both traditions have assisted me professionally.

Currently, I manage two small businesses: a content management firm and a marketing/branding business. During the week three discussion, I shared that one of the hardest facets of my marketing business is completing phase one of the client contract. This first phase involves the client logo. Logos are very tricky because often clients know what they “don’t” want, but find it very difficult to communicate what they “do” want.

In addition to the logos, the semiotic tradition also has helped change the process I use for second most difficult service provided by our company. This service is the concept design and creation of book covers.

Book covers are challenging for similar reasons that logos are. The author has a group of objects, symbols or pictures in his or her head and often there is a huge debate whether to visibly illustrate a concept or to have a literal depiction of the book title or concept. “The three areas of study: semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 46)” can all be seen at play in this example. Elements, pictures, signs, and shapes can represent different things to different people and can be interpreted very differently based on thoughts, ideas, education, environment, and tradition. Also, I have learned that it is almost impossible to duplicate a picture that someone has constructed mentally.

The author’s “triad of meaning” as discussed in the text: “triad of meaning, which asserts that meaning arises from a relationship among three things—the object (or referent), the person (or interpreter), and the sign (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 45)” often conflict or differ so greatly from the designer that it can take a long time for the two to agree on a concept that is acceptable to the client.

The semiotic tradition has helped me associate the reason that this may be…”the semiotic tradition includes a host of theories about how signs come to represent objects, ideas, states, situations, feelings and conditions outside of themselves (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 45).” As I begin thinking back to past experiences with clients, I can see how the semiotic theory plays out.

I recently begin explaining the semiotic theory to my designers and then encouraged them to try a new approach with clients.  I am teaching the designers to begin the very first interaction with the clients from a phenomenological angle before discussing any concepts. This tradition “concentrates on the conscious experience of the person” and “is the way in which human beings come to understand the world through direct experience—the perception of a phenomenon, whether an object, event or condition” (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 47).

I wanted to see if it would impact the challenge with book cover creation. Well, my hypothesis was proven to be correct. As soon as the designers approach the design from the perspective of the client and it has made a tremendous difference in communication between the designer and the client and the concept/design process is much faster. The designers now figuratively “put themselves in the clients’ shoes” by looking at the project through the filter of the experiences and perspective of the author that he or she is designing for and it has made a tremendous difference. It is amazing how understanding and applying the traditions can make such a difference in both personal and professional interactions.


Littlejohn, Stephen W. & Karen A Foss (2011). Theories of Human Communication (10th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

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