Semiotics is a subject area that covers even the most basic knowledge we have had since we were children. Red means stop, green means go. Red means anger and danger; blue means calm and neutrality. It is the study of universal signs that have been ingrained in our minds from a very young age – how visual cues (signs) are transmitted into patterns to the viewer, conveying a message.
Philosopher and Scientist Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 191) placed signs into 3 categories – Iconic, Symbolic, and Indexical.
- Iconic signs look like what they represent (e.g a portrait or scientific illustration)
- Symbolic signs don’t look like what they represent; its meaning must be learned
- Indexical signs have a clue that links to their meanings
The use of semiotics in art can be very useful because their meanings are universal, and therefore will help convey a message much easier. For example, if in a poster trying to explain why you should recycle you might use a lot of green (as it is linked to the environment and feeling lively, proactive) and universally recognised symbols, such as these: