The notion of semiotics involves the study of the relationship between symbols and signs and interpretation. It is through the work of semiotic that theorists such as Ferdinand De Saussure, Roland Barthes and Charles Peirce, which has essentially enabled the relationship between signs and the creation of meaning to be examined. Through this essay, I will be applying numerous semiotic theories and terminology to analyse the meaning, function and effectiveness of a visual advertisement, from a 2013 campaign initiated by Crisis Relief Singapore.
It is important to understand that the advertisement is an image composed of particular signs and symbols, which fundamentally signify meaning. As cited in Fiske (1990), Peirce refers to a sign as “mental concept” which is interpreted based on the users’ experience and context. The construction of this advertisement is imperative in relation to how the semiotics function to arouse meaning. Firstly, we must identify the icons. Peirce through his “Triangle of Semiotics” divided the sign into three types, creating the concept of a semiotic icon along with index and symbol (Fiske 1990). An icon can be described as to have resemblance to its object meaning that it looks or sounds like it does in reality. The icons in this advertisement include a boy, a woman, a wire fence and hands with their thumbs up.
These icons enable the audience to recognise the denotation, which is the first order of signification, a concept developed by Saussure and worked on by Barthes, that is predominantly a dominant, literal reading that is perceived during initial observation. The denotation may be essentially different to what the composer’s intentions are. The denotation of this particular advertisement can be interpreted as, a woman with a child in her arms, surrounded by hands with their thumbs up. As this is a very basic level of reading, to understand the advertisement’s purpose, the connotations need be explored.
A connotation is the term Barthes uses to describe as a second order of signification, as it is the interaction of when the sign encounters the emotions of the audience and the their cultural values and background (Fiske 1990). A connotation is a more subjective interpretation or message compared to the direct and obvious denotations. However, connotations depend on the identification and examining of the signifier and signified elements of signs in the advertisement. According to Fiske (1990), a connotation is generally arbitrary, meaning there is an illogical connection between the signs and meaning. It is primarily the influence of culture, which determines an individual’s interpretation
It is the combination and placement of signs that assist in the formation of various connotations. Saussure’s initiated the concept that signs consist of the signifier, the physical form of the sign and the signified, its associated mental concept which is generated by the responder (Fiske 1990). Firstly, it is...