Structure (What holds this together?)


0.0 BILL: The process of connecting the material and the ideal we call design. Design is the process of playing the material off against the ideal, where at times designing leads us to the previously undiscovered in the material and the imaginable in the ideal.

“Design” has a nicely double meaning. As a noun, design is the patterning in something, its design – the design of a text, image, space, object, bodily configuration, sound, or speech. But as a verb, design is something we do. Design is a process.

0.52 BILL: Here is the process aspect of design.

As a prelude to meanings, we have design resources, patterns of meaning in the material world, and the conventions we have learned using media to express meanings in text, image, space, object, body, sound and speech.

1.11 BILL: Next, we do the work of designing. This may be by way of representation to ourselves, communicating with others, or interpreting traces of meaning that we encounter. Meaning is always a kind of work, mental and often physical as well (typing and speaking are physical work). The designs we make are always in some respect predictable when we trace their roots back to the resources from which we have drawn and the meaning practices we have learned.

1.44 BILL: We are left with a trace of having meant. This may only be a memory in the case of representation, but often the trace is material, a communicable meaning. We call this the redesigned, because it has evidence both of sameness and difference. It must have used resources which are in some senses explicable, which make the meaning potentially intelligible. But it is also uniquely reconfigured. No two photographs are the same, no two conversations, no two objects no matter how faithful to prototype we may want them to be. Meaning, inevitably, is transformation.

So, the task of grammar is to account for the sameness and trace the differences. Most importantly, the differences are not entirely fickle, not completely unfathomable in their variety. There are patterns in the differing. How might a woman redesign a meaning compared to a man, or a child compared to an adult?

2.48 BILL: And here now is a rough map of the action structure of design across the different forms of meaning. You have seen text on screens or pages, and it is this experience that is a basis for your own writing words, or mathematics, or computer code - which in turn is new in the sense that it is never quite the same as the text you have seen.

Or, for body, you have seen fashions and demeanors, and these may influence your fashion sense and demeanor, but this is never exactly the same as anyone else’s.

  • Reference: Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis, 2020, Making Sense: Reference, Agency and Structure in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 68-71.