Brie_Flew_Flewelling_Visual_Semiotics_Design_Ethics_Publication_Research_Guide-2

Look around,
what do you see?

A desk, the carpet, a tree?  Everything surrounding you, carries a series of mental associations that affect our interpretation and application of them. We are influenced by everything we see and experience in the world around us. If you had a cat as a child, you may consider yourself a ‘cat person’ and smile when you see one pop up on an Instagram feed. If you once took a way-too-spicy bite of a ghost-pepper seasoned dish, you may hesitate when you see that telltale flame next to an item on a menu. These visuals that inspire these inner reactions are called "Signs." 

Semiotics is why design can make us laugh, cry, angry, silly, sad, and most importantly, curious about the world around us.

Semiotics is the study of signs and 'significations'; Graphic Design means creating visual Signs for users to interact with. Though not often discussed together, Semiotics and Graphic Design work hand in hand. Designers naturally understand, almost intuitively, aspects of Semiotics. We know that different typefaces have different voices and that a color palette can suggest a tone or mood for the overall design. The reason for this, lies in Semiotics, the meaning behind our visuals.

Why don’t we talk
about semiotics in
design education?

Graphic design is a young discipline and is still lacking a theoretical foundation. With this in mind, few resources have been offered that pose Semiotic theory and Semiotic Thinking as part of the foundation of graphic design. Even more, Semiotics is a complex theoretical field, consistently analyzed by Semioticians through two branches: the Saussarian branch of linguistic application and the Peircian branch, which goes beyond linguistics into visual application. Regardless of which branch you choose to follow, both are jargon-heavy and dense, instantly alienating a large audience, especially students who are still learning basic design principles.

How can we narrow down this jargon-filled field, and make Semiotics accessible to young designers? 

We set out to create a pocket guide that would serve to distill this dense topic into something more palatable. With a clever layout that can be read in multiple directions and ways, our exploration of semiotics lies both in the text of the guide, and also in the design decisions made. Though in no way a complete or detailed account of Semiotic theory, our guide acts as an introduction, allowing budding designers to dip their toes into the world of Graphic Design theory and providing a platform from which to dive into deeper thought. 

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