Semiotics

semiotics

ˌsiːmɪˈɒtɪks,ˌsɛmɪ-/
noun
the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.

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)

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 10.02.28.png

  • Symbolic signs don’t look like what they represent; its meaning must be learned

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 10.02.37.png

  • Indexical signs have a clue that links to their meanings

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 10.02.47.png

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:

recycle-only-no-background.png tidyman.jpg

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