Visual symbolism. Sounds simple, but complicated, it is. Symbols are broken down into 3 terms.
Let’s start with semiotics. On a VERY general level, semiotics is how communication works on the basis of visual symbolism or icons. A symbol is a visual representation that can contain a narrative or a movement and semiotics in a way is how we can understand communicated messages through the use of a symbol.
Think of it as visual linguistics.
Let’s use the example above. We can all agree that this is the symbol for the Olympic Games. Semiotics is the process of how we all knew what the image was. Keep up with me here.
This image is not just a symbol, it is also what it symbolises. We all associated this image with sport and suggested that the image is used to generalise the international sports competition. We knew what the image represents and what it also portrays just by the visual code of the symbol and semiotics is the process ofor understanding that image.
Told you this wouldn’t be simple.
Semology is the meaty stuff now. It is the cause in general visual linguistics (that being a sign). A sign is a visual action but this definition can be broken down further.
A sign is divided by two things; a signifier and a signified. Signifier being the sound image that relates to an idea. So the actual image or sign (visual representation) has no meaning but it has links to other ideas.
If I was to show you my middle finger, the sound image which has no meaning would be the image of my finger. The connection to an idea would be your thoughts on weather it’s a rude gesture or not. See where I’m going with this?
The signified on the other hand is the idea only. Not the actual sign itself.
In addition, one sign can carry multiple meanings. This concept is known as “Denotation” which is the direct connection between the Signifier and the sign.
Now, all of that was understanding the concept of signs. Name I’m gonna talk a bit about the visual aspects of signs.
Signs represent 3 smaller factors which make up the visual characteristics of a sign. These are:
Remember a sign is a visual action while a symbol is a visual representation.
An icon is a visual outlook of a image (or in this case, sign), the index points to the existence of another thing and a symbol has no direct connection to the associated subject.
An example of an icon is a image of an eye. We all know it’s an eye, but their are several other icons in the image except for the eye. There is the eye, Iris, pulpil and so on. One sign can have multiple icons and those icons can have multiple meanings!
For the index, imagine a clock that points to the time 4:20 (see what I did there?). The sign would be the clock and the icon being the handles but the clock is performing an action which is a link to what it is also telling us. The index is the clock indicating the time, giving us information that is not directly connected to the sign.
Symbols in terms of signs is a sign that has no connection to the subject. Bear with me.
Let’s use the word tree. If I say tree, you would have a image in your mind as to what I’m talking about right? But I just said tree. There is no visual representation of this tree.
Think of it as a “René Magritte- This is not a a pipe” concept. It’s not the actual thing. Just a suggestion of the actual thing.
Last but not least, myth is the intention of the symbol. What the message is if it had to be manifested into a sentence. They are the metaphors for the symbol. Lakoff & Johnson (1980, 1856) support this statement by saying;
“Like metaphors, myths help us to make sense of our experiences within a culture”
The myth reminds us of the ideology that the symbol contains and how weak or powerful it is.
“Dam! that’s a lot of information to take in” I hear you saying but no fear, give me a few weeks and I will have this more simplified then ever before.