Sunday mornings are great for drinking coffee or tea in your pyjamas while listening to ICA-Belgium’s online Colour Talks!

On Sunday November 28th 2021, from 10 a.m. till 11 a.m. CEST our guest was our ICA-B colleague and Belgian design semantics expert Inez Michiels. She took us on a tour through her innovative Design Semantics Database (DSD), an online application developed for the creative professions. The extensive database helps designers to create meaningful and psychologically appealing designs and analyse whether the values, identity or emotions targeted by those specific designs are adequately conjured up.

Have a preview at
Have a try-out, it’s free

The DSD is a scientifically based design tool and the result of years of study and research, offering feedback on the meaning and the emotional effect of keywords, colours, colour combinations, shapes and compositions, textures, tastes, and postures. A logical data structure wherein colour functions as a classification system forms the framework in which the keywords and design elements are classified and connected. As such the DSD offers a unique source of design information bringing intuition to the surface and enhancing it. To illustrate how the DSD can be used and what its potentials are for the creative professions,  Inez will showcase a successfully applied example.

Watch the full Colour Talk here.


When Apple’s Donald Norman introduced the User-centered design  in 1993, he not only shifted the focus towards the user of a product or service, but also permanently established the scientific approach to the design process. Today designers more than ever have to take into account the meaning, emotion, brand value, functionality, and ambience of a design when deciding on a specific course of action for their projects. To complicate things further, hundreds of research papers are published annually, each of which sheds light on specialized aspects of the psychological and emotional effects of specific design elements. The DSD meets the need for practical information that paves the way for the creation of psychologically appealing, meaningful design. Its logical spatial structure wherein colour functions as a classification system, taps into the innate human language and sign system. As such the DSD is a unique source of information and inspiration for highlighting intuitive creativity. It is the culmination of decades of study and research that synthesizes some of the findings and insights of anthropologists, philosophers, sociologists, neurologists, biologists, A.I. scientists, psychologists, marketing specialists, graphic designers, artists, architects, and product developers in a single logically consultative application. In its present form the application hosts around 1500 keywords connected to many design elements. Additionally the database offers quotes from over 160 relevant books and scientific research papers.


Inez Michiels is director at CITY OF 8 design semantics research association and co-founding board member of the ICA-Belgium Interdisciplinary Colour Association. She obtained a Master of Arts from the Artesis-Plantijn Hogeschool in Antwerp. In cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and the University of Antwerp, dep. of communication sciences she did research into the link between art and emotion. She published a series of papers and books on design semantics. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Antwerp, dep. interior architecture and at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore US, dep. graphic design. She is a member of the AIC Study Group on Environmental Colour Design.



Download Semantic Colour Space full paper @ AIC proceedings, Buenos Aries, Argentina, 15 – 17 October 2019. p178