Beyond Metaphor in Product Use and Interaction

Thomas Markussen, Elif Özcan, Nazli Cila

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The overall aim of this paper is to demonstrate that there is a need for supplementing the theory of product metaphor with a more elaborate theory of product meaning. More specifically, we argue that the notion of product metaphor neglects three critically important aspects of meaning making in product use. First, the notion of product metaphor usually accounts for how the visual form and appearance of a product might cue people to conceive of the product in terms of another conceptual source (e.g. a coffee maker as a butler), while leaving the role of cross-modal sensory experience in product meaning out of consideration. Secondly, like other theoretical frameworks in design semantics, the notion of product metaphor primarily accounts for the semantic operations that are involved in the first initial phase of product categorization and interpretation, while eschewing the question as to how product interpretation might evolve over time as people interact with and use the product. Finally, in product use there often emerge more complex and even ambiguous forms of meaning, which falls outside the explanatory scope of the source-target construal principle – the key semantic principle of product metaphor. In order to remedy these limitations inherent in the theory of product metaphor we introduce a new semantic framework based upon Fauconnier & Turner’s theory of conceptual blends.
Original languageDanish
Title of host publicationProceedings of DESFORM2012
Number of pages10
Publication date2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventDeSForM 2012: Meaning, Matter, Making - Victoria -School of Design, Wellington, New Zealand
Duration: 18. Apr 201220. Apr 2012
Conference number: 7


WorkshopDeSForM 2012
LocationVictoria -School of Design
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand

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