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Industrial designer who coined the term 'product semantics' to speak at ISU March 10

March 04, 2016


Reinhart Butter

AMES, Iowa — Reinhart Butter, a professor emeritus of industrial design at Ohio State University known for his role in popularizing product semantics, will speak at Iowa State University.

Butter will present "The Power of Appeal: Methods for the Enhancement of Products and Systems" at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 10, in Kocimski Auditorium, room 0101 College of Design. His lecture is free and open to the public.

Butter will visit Iowa State March 7-11 to work with the Industrial Design Graduate Practicum, taught by Assistant Professor Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness. The practicum is part of a multi-semester effort by classes at six universities in the United States, Germany, Hungary and Taiwan to turn kick-scooters into a more widely accepted commuter device. Butter will guide each team in the class through the ideation process while emphasizing product semantics—the meaning of products and systems in the context of their use. He also will help judge the Industrial Design Student Merit Awards.

In his public talk, Butter will discuss the importance of appeal as one of designers' most effective and unique contributions during the research and development process of simple products to complex product systems. He will highlight the importance of product semantics and provide an overview of several past and current projects, including the kick-scooter initiative.

About the Speaker
A member of the Industrial Designers Society of America, Butter received a master's degree in industrial design from the Ulm School of Design in Germany and a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship for post-graduate study at the Royal College of Art in London. He practiced as a professional industrial designer in Germany before joining Ohio State’s Department of Design, where he helped reshape the curriculum to focus on a systematic approach to research and problem solving.

Together with Klaus Krippendorff, the Gregory Bateson Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, Butter coined the term "product semantics" to describe the process by which individuals come to understand a product or system through interacting with it. Butter and his colleagues were instrumental in making product semantics known globally through conferences and workshops.

Butter retired from teaching in 2007 but remains involved in OSU's international student exchange program. He continues to lecture internationally and works as a design consultant from offices in Columbus, Ohio, and Darmstadt, Germany.

Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, Industrial Design, (515) 294-7416,
Brandon Hallmark, Design Communications,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,