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objects as symbols

This quarter, I am taking a class called 'Anthropology of Food.' It's an extra class in every way- totally out of my major, and the real motivation for taking it is maintaining my full-time student status (and scholarship) for one more quarter. That being said, it's a pretty interesting class and topics of conversation routinely wander to industrial design territory.In class this evening, our teacher touched on the anthropology definition of a symbol, that is (loosely) 'any object that represents or stands for another object.' I asked if this means that anything with sentimental value is, by its very nature, a symbol. Apparently, that's true...

This has particularly interesting relevance to product design because it is often the point at which an object becomes a symbol that it starts to have added value and establish a lasting relationship with the consumer. Marigolds (above) are a symbol of my mother. If memory serves me, mom and I planted marigolds together many springs ago- it was my first real garden project. (The particular flowers here showed up in an odd little flower bed along my daily route to school.)
This Swiss army knife is a symbol of my trip to Europe, but its interesting because it also bears the Swiss cross and Edelweiss, two symbols of Switzerland (where the knife was purchased.) Does the intrinsic value of a product go up as it becomes a symbol for more and more people and places? Is a product that bears more literal symbols vulnerable to a more passionate response from the consumer (i.e. someone may own this knife only because they love Switzerland, not because they have any use for the tool)