Abstract

As material artifacts, consumer goods evolve through a process of product selection, paralleling that of natural selection in biology. Products, labels and brands not chosen by consumers become extinct, while selected items survive to live and sell another day. Interpreted nonverbally, successful products display messaging features--such as the Nike swoosh, the red tag on Levi's jeans and the mouth-shaped vehicular grille--designed to appeal to consumers as emotional signs. A messaging feature may be a meaningful mark, line, shape, pattern, seal, banner, badge, decoration, symbol, gloss, color, aroma, cadence, edging or spangle added to a product to transmit information rather than to provide functionality, durability, or strength. Using linear messaging features incorporated into the designed of the necktie, the Brooks Brothers suit and the vehicular stripe as examples, this paper shows how nonverbal signs work to (1) encourage product selection, and (2) promote the evolution of modern material culture, manufactured artifacts and consumer goods. (Copyright 1999 by the American Anthropological Association)

AAA Press Release: Darwin's Decorations

Product selection parallels the biological process of natural selection, says David Givens (Center for Nonverbal Studies), where products become extinct or survive to live and sell another day. Givens describes how nonverbal signs in clothing and packaging encourage product selection and promote the evolution of modern material culture. (Copyright 1999 by the American Anthropological Association)

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