The simplest example that everyone has come across is an interview when applying for a job. HR expert sees signs of the candidate before an actual meeting.
- CV: the structure of a CV, grammar accuracy, photo, email address, matching to the particular job.
- Meeting: arrangements and their fulfillment, punctuality, pre-warning about being late, appearance, communication, manners, gestures, facial expressions, language.
All these signs show such properties of an applicant as general education, cultural background, adequacy and many others.
For example, a follow up phone call after a job interview with a request for the results of an interview perfectly characterizes the applicant’s perseverance and his desire to follow through.
Kitchen. Boiled eggs
On the kitchen table are two brown eggs. How to determine whether they are boiled or raw? Externally, the eggs are completely identical. The answer knows every housewife: twist it. Boiled will spin, but not raw. Through the sign “spinning”, we understand that this egg is boiled. But, if you change them several times in places on the table, you again will not be able to understand which one is boiled and which is raw.
Now imagine that one egg is white, and the second is brown. At the first look there will be the same problem: it is not clear which one’s which. But by twisting it, we’d see that the white spins. So, we’d say, “white is boiled.” Now, even swapping them several times, you always correctly determine which one is boiled and won’t get your pants dirty by accidentally breaking a raw egg onto your lap. Put it any way you want, the sign of “boiled” remains in white egg.
What happened? You correlated the sign with a specific property, although the color and condition of the egg are generally not related at all (by the way, the difference between correlation and cause-effect relationships is a great topic for another article!). We will discuss the correlation of signs and properties and their manipulation at the end of this article.
Consider the application of the concept of signs and properties in tactics and strategies.
- Sun Tzu in his treatise “The Art of War” writes that: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” In other words, show signs that are characteristic of properties opposite to yours.
- ‘Make a Feint to the East While Attacking in the West’ is one of the key principles of warfare described in the ancient Chinese military text ‘The 36 Stratagems’ and it says exactly the same thing. You should show opposite signs, than those that are peculiar to you. The enemy perceives only the signs: noise, movement of troops, physical attack. But he does not see your true intentions.
From other examples that are known from history and are used in films:
- to install sacks of straw on the city wall or even the corpses of fallen comrades so that the enemy can see a large number of defenders. Here the sign of the victory of the defenders is the number of their squad, which is simulated; on the other hand, attackers in the night can make a lot of fires, showing that there are far more than they actually are. Here fires are an external sign perceived by the defenders of the besieged city; On the dusty terrain, a small detachment tied tree branches to horses to raise clouds of dust, imitating the movement of a huge army.
UX / UI
- Underlined text has long been a sign that this text is a link.
- The sound when pressing the button can differ for successful and unsuccessful pressing. Sound is a sign. The success of clicking is a property.
- Product card on the page of any online store. All the characteristics written on this card are, in fact, the signs to guide the user. Price is a sign that can take into account both these signs and the goods remaining in stock. Dynamic pricing (for example, used in the sale of train or airline tickets), in fact, in a sign of price takes into account the property of demand. Only there it is realized, and in many online stores you won’t even see on the website the quantity of goods left in a warehouse.
- If you apply this offline, where schedules of office / gym / bank branch workload is often known (and sometimes can be seen on the door), it can modulate fee-for-service payment. Many gyms do this. Price as a sign of demand in the first place.
- You can also change the final price depending on the method of delivery and payment. In fact, this is done by many, but as additional shipping charges and with a separate price tag.
Changing the signs of an object as a result of a change its properties is the principle of Russian constructivism, called “Factura”.
Dynamic pricing and taking into account for the price of goods the demand perfectly implement this principle. The main thing is not to forget to show the sign of demand (remaining items) off, so that the consumer can see it.
- The countdown at traffic lights is also a sign of the property “waiting”. By the way, the principle of Factura here manifests itself in switching from green to red and back.
- Uniforms in supermarkets. This is a sign of the store employee. It is much easier for a user to navigate by hight visible clothes than to look for badges on visitors’ chests.
- A corporate identity is a signs of a company’s brand.
Pull the signs out to show all the possible properties of the object. This is also the principle of Russian constructivism called “Tektonika”.
For example, let’s consider the email client / chat messengers in mobile applications. In many cases, it’s made in such a way that it can be pushed aside and will then show some options (frankly, I learned about these thing quite accidentally after someone told me about it).
Using the Tectonika principle, we can suggest an improvement: when the device is inclined the chat line shifts to the side, showing three colored stripes and opens them when pushed. This way we pull the object’s properties out and make them available to the user.
In all the described examples it is clear that the signs build our perception and understanding of the properties of objects, their essence and meaning. Hence, the universal rule:
Hide signs to hide properties. And, on the contrary, create (or fake) the signs in order to attribute the missing properties to the object.
An example of an object where both signs and properties are hidden is the antenna of your cell phone. Previously, they were external and stuck out.
Now they are built inside on the phone’s board. You do not see it, you use only the results of it’s work, without even realizing it.
If suddenly the antenna breaks (for example, when broke a raw egg on your pants you after all and dropped the phone), then you immediately begin to perceive a sign of a broken antenna — lack of communication. By the way, the same sign can also appear at the cell tower, which was struck by lightning. Without accurate diagnostics (establishing other signs) you will not be able to determine which properties have been violated or even which objects are the cause of the manifestation of these signs and the carriers of these properties.
The more accurately you link the signs to each other, the easier it is to classify an object or in other words, to understand its properties. This is an another principle of Russian constructivism— “Construction”.
True and the reverse: if you can’t clearly understand what is it they are talking about, what is the difference between the products in the store, whether to hire an employee, whether this ticket from a travel agency is good enough for you, this can only mean that there are lack of signs. See what other information you can collect directly or indirectly. But keep in mind that all signs must be checked if they are specifically related to the object.
It seems to be pretty basic stuff, but how often do you make decisions without having a whole picture?
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