Group Definition of Semiotics

Semiotics reveals the hidden message of an image. It can be considered as an underlying meaning which stands beyond what is already there. This theory of interpretation analyses how the image creates meaning and which specific signs are utilised to draw an underlying communication between artist and viewer (Rose, 2016).

  • Icon – direct visual representation of an image at its most basic form. 
  • Index – utilised to represent something which is inherited through a preformed ideology.
  • Symbol – previously formed cultural and social construct which depends on a viewers own knowledge to create context

Sign contains:

  • Signified – defined concept or object within an image 
  • Signifier – accompanying image or sound which can represent an object or sign
  • Referent – object which is directly related to a sign

Text contains:

  • Anchorage text helps to create meaning where the image may lack in communication. Usually found in the form of a slogan for interesting advertisements.
  • Relay text – complimentary version of text which is utilised to reinforce a meaning which has been previously constructed by the image.
  • Denotive – ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to Semiotics where you can uncover the top layer of an image without digging deeper.
  • Connotive – digs deeper into the image to uncover further layers of interpretation.
  • Metonymic – related to metaphors and is utilised to draw conclusions in relation to specific signs.
  • Synecdotal– a part which in turn represents a whole. Can also be utilised in reverse. E.g. a single close-up of a light bulb on packaging for a string of 100 lights. 
  • Paradigmatic relates to opposites which can represent meaning. These are uncovered by understanding not what a sign is, but what it is not.
  • Syntagmatic derives meaning from spatially adjacent signs which are formed within the same image to create meaning (Rose, 2016).



Rose, G. (2016). Visual Methodologies: an introduction to researching with visual materials. Sage Publications, 4, 106 – 146


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